Canadian scientists research precognitive tech – just want to hold your hand

Those crazy northern neighbors of ours have decided that the next time they hear the words “preemptive strike” it will be in response to how you hold your hand.

Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) instead of implanted sensors, the scientists at University of Western Ontario have taken a year’s worth of studies to study how the mind works.

Now, they’ve announced that they can tell how you’re going to position your hand to pick up an object before you even move. This information has potential uses in the field of prosthetic devices, allowing future robotic limbs to react and pick up objects in a more useful manner than current devices.

This important step in understanding how the brain plans activities will help in the future development of prosthetic devices, as well as helping autonomous robots make better decisions in regards to positioning themselves for future operations.

Full press release on the next page:

Western researchers can predict future actions from human brain activity

By Communications Staff
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Bringing the real world into the brain scanner, researchers at The University of Western Ontario from The Centre for Brain and Mind ( can now determine the action a person was planning, mere moments before that action is actually executed.

The findings were published this week in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience, in the paper, “Decoding Action Intentions from Preparatory Brain Activity in Human Parieto-Frontal Networks.”

“This is a considerable step forward in our understanding of how the human brain plans actions,” says Jason Gallivan, a Western Neuroscience PhD student, who was the first author on the paper.

Over the course of the one-year study, human subjects had their brain activity scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they performed one of three hand movements: grasping the top of an object, grasping the bottom of the object, or simply reaching out and touching the object. The team found that by using the signals from many brain regions, they could predict, better than chance, which of the actions the volunteer was merely intending to do, seconds later.

“Neuroimaging allows us to look at how action planning unfolds within human brain areas without having to insert electrodes directly into the human brain. This is obviously far less intrusive,” explains Western Psychology professor Jody Culham, who was the paper’s senior author.

Gallivan says the new findings could also have important clinical implications: “Being able to predict a human’s desired movements using brain signals takes us one step closer to using those signals to control prosthetic limbs in movement-impaired patient populations, like those who suffer from spinal cord injuries or locked-in syndrome.”

This research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). A past recipient of the CIHR Brain Star Award, Gallivan is funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) graduate scholarship.

Source: Engadget, UWO Centre for Mind and Brain

Scroll to Top