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electroencephalography cognitive research test predicting performance EEG Sandia

Research into decoding brain signals is ongoing, and it seems only a matter of time until wearing an EEG (electroencephalography) helmet could let someone see what you are thinking. Predicting what someone is thinking would be no mean feat, but what about predicting something that has not happened yet, like how they will do on a test? According to recent results from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), that may not be as far fetched as it seems.

A press release from Sandia explains how the feat was accomplished:

“The team monitored test subjects’ brain activity while they studied word lists, then used the EEG to predict who would remember the most information. Because researchers knew the average percentage of correct answers under various conditions, they had a baseline of what brain activity looked like for good and poor memory performance. The computer model predicted five of 23 people tested would perform best. The model was correct: They remembered 72 percent of the words on average, compared to 45 percent for everyone else.”

The study is part of a larger effort to decode how the brain stores and transports information, but even simply the result reported here could have wide reaching implications.  Potential beneficiaries of such technology range from students studying for tests to surgeons preparing for a long complicated operation.

Researcher Laura Matzen led Sandia’s cognitive systems group in further exploring the topic of memory, trying to discover learning techniques that best aid memory with the aid of the same EEG/computer system setup as the previously described test. Analysis of the data from that experiment is ongoing, but she says results are promising.

Matzen would like to continue and expand further research “to use more real-world memory working tasks, such as what military personnel would have to learn as new recruits, and see if the same patterns apply to more complex types of learning,” in the future.