While mind reading has long since been a novelty among magicians, circus sideshows and Professor Xavier from the ‘X-Men’ franchise, a new study suggests that this once thought fictional ability is actually possible.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University inserted tiny electrodes into the brains of epilepsy patients awaiting brain surgery and then asked them to memorize a series of fifteen words. The researchers were not only able to see changes in brain activity, but could also see how each subject grouped words together like “goose” and “duck.”

They say that by watching how different areas of a subject’s brain reacted while they committed certain words to memory, they could determine in advance which words the subject would then say – even though the subjects were not speaking or making gestures.

Lead researcher Michael Kahana, a professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, describes the brain image as a “neural fingerprint” that can be used to analyze the way that a brain makes associations. He also adds that spontaneous verbal recall is used uniquely in human beings and on a near-constant basis.

Although this phenomenon is not yet well understood, researchers expect that this study will help them understand it.

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