Brain Scanners (of Fact and Fiction)

Hitachi's marketable EEG brain scanner which was promoted in the context of family based game playing from a few years back.

Developed by KDDI's R&D labs, this prototype mind-monitoring, sensor-laden headband connects wirelessly to your Android device to let you know just how stressed out you are. All it takes is a simple 30-second game of "mash mash mash the little green robot" (amongst others) to translate your focused and relaxed states into an easily readable brain pattern chart.

A brain scanner that uses a portable EEG headset to read your thought patters directly onto your headset. This won't actually detect neurochemical changes but will monitor electrical activity as per a standard EEG scanner.

Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.[2] In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain's spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time, usually 20–40 minutes, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp.

The brain's electrical charge is maintained by billions of neurons. Neurons are electrically charged (or "polarized") by membrane transport proteins that pump ions across their membranes. Neurons are constantly exchanging ions with the extracellular milieu, for example to maintain resting potential and to propagate action potentials. Ions of like charge repel each other, and when many ions are pushed out of many neurons at the same time, they can push their neighbours, who push their neighbours, and so on, in a wave. This process is known as volume conduction. When the wave of ions reaches the electrodes on the scalp, they can push or pull electrons on the metal on the electrodes. Since metal conducts the push and pull of electrons easily, the difference in push or voltage between any two electrodes can be measured by a voltmeter. Recording these voltages over time gives us the EEG.

EEG is a lot more mobile and less dangerous than MRI scanning which typically involve large, bulky and expensive equipment that involves a lot more preparation and expertise as well as radioactive materials that can be potentially dangerous with over-exposure. An EEG lends itself to more mobile an inexperienced use as evidence by the variety of 'home kits' available or use with smartphone software. However, it has it's own drawbacks such as poor resolution, an inability to map the deeper reaches of the brain with any real detail and, as mentioned earlier, no way of detecting the actual chemistry of the brain.

A, similar, and typically sleeker iOS version - Neurosky.

This is seemingly aimed at game players as per the Which? review and the headphones embedded on the latest version and previewed at the Tokyo Game Show this year. It also features sinister children dressed up as Jedis in an advert far too reminiscent of some dystopian future.

The Animus from the Assassin's Creed video game series relies on the conscious awareness of it's user to engage with the technology, it cannot be used in a surveillance context.

A later version of the Animus, reconstructed from the same technology but more minimistically.

The Aurora Chair from the Farscape tv series/ Again, it requires a submissive user and posses similar tropes and styles of a torture device.

The PASIV 'Dream Machine' from Inception. It's a lot more mobile than other models as well as more subversive and militaristic in its aesthetic. It appears to be almost home-made giving it a prototype-esque sense of value in its construction as well as making it more like a genuine invention in its more ragtag design. This seems to be more realistic than more developed models like the Animus etc. which would imply an established culture of mind reading in order for it to have got to such an advanced and slick stage without anything stopping it. A full guidebook is available here.

The device from Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind retains some of the prototype aesthetic of the PASIV but again requires user submission.