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Could US Intelligence Detect Brain Waves to Spy?

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Could US Intelligence Detect Brain Waves to Spy?

A major part of espionage is the ability to pluck electronic signals out of the air and interpret them to obtain useful information.

Attempts are made on a daily basis to gather a wide range signals from satellites, radios, and even cell phones.

The majority of those attempts are made remotely. Meaning, the operatives trying to obtain the signals are offsite and are often not linked physically to the signal emitter.

However, the world is on the dawn of a new age in espionage.

What if these same operatives had a similar ability to pluck your brain waves right out of the air for the purpose of interpreting them?

This technology may not be realized quite yet, but it appears that it could be on the horizon.

Interpreting Brain Waves

Brain waves are created by billions of neurons firing off ions that push and pull against each other.

Currently, a wired cap placed on the head can measure these waves. This technique is commonly used in EEG recording. The current technology has a wide array of uses today, such as:

–> The diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy
–> Monitoring brain function
–> Monitor the effects of sedatives and anesthesia

However, a very interesting use of brain wave technology involves more than just monitoring brain wave activity.

Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw is the head of a brain wave project at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center in Albany, which is studying the possibility of using brain waves to operate computer programs.

Thus far, the project has discovered some interesting findings.

Researchers found that volunteers adapt quickly to operating the simple program with only their mind. The program involves moving colored squares around a screen.

Describing the project, Dr. Wolpaw reported, “The person learns to talk to the computer and the computer learns to listen to him.”


Interpreting Your Thoughts

Work such as this is making great leaps in improving the quality of life for people who have been paralyzed.

Currently, volunteers must wear a wired cap in order for their brain waves to be recorded or interpreted. However, scientists in England are working on a way to make the wired cap as obsolete
as the floppy disc.

A group of scientists from the Centre for Physical Electronics at the University of Sussex have developed a technique that can detect brain waves without the use of a wired cap.

The technique uses sensor technology to measure the electric fields created by the brain, from a short distance. These sensors can be used instead of the more invasive wire cap.

Lead researcher, Terry Clark, foresees a wide range of uses for this fledging technology.

For example, he states:

“By picking up brain signals non-invasively, we could find ourselves controlling machinery with our thoughts alone: a marriage of mind and machine. This is very plausible if couple with Dr. Wolpaw’s research. However, with just a little imagination, this technology could be used for other applications, like espionage.”

It sounds somewhat outlandish, but still plausible.

brain scan

Lie Detection and Identifying Criminals

Back in 2007, researcher Rebecca Houston conducted a study where she monitored the brain activity of people with aggressive or criminal histories.

In an article in Crime Times, she stated that according to her research, “…abnormalities in sensory processing contribute to these individuals’ loss of control.”

These abnormalities in sensory processing were discovered by monitoring the brain wave patterns of volunteers.

Another example of putting brain waves into practice in a practical way is Brain Fingerprinting.

In Brain Fingerprinting, it is believed that when someone commits a crime, the event is stored as a memory. When the perpetrator is presented with evidence of the crime, the memory is triggered, creating a neurological response.

If the perpetrator is attached to a machine similar to an EEG, then this response can be recorded.

Brain Fingerprinting is still in its early stages, but is being seriously evaluated by the FBI as part of deception detection and profiling.

If this technique is perfected and coupled with Clark’s sensor technology, individuals such as criminals, and even spies could be easily identified.

Taking this technology a step further, it is conceivable that technology such as this could be used by a government to monitor the brain wave activity of its people or to detect espionage. Intelligence agents could use the technology to spy on foreign diplomats or scientists.

They could using a person’s brain waves to determine past, present, or possibly even future actions of an individual, such as crimes or clandestine activities.

Even though the technology is not quite there yet; it is not far off.

References & Image Credits:
(1) BBC

Originally published on

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