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    Shinji Nishimoto said:

    Since this comment discusses our work, we felt that it might be helpful to add a few comments.

    First off, we agree completely that the various decoding studies that have been reported should NOT be construed as “mind reading”. We never use the term “mind reading” in our papers, we use terms such as “brain decoding” or (in the popular press “brain reading”) instead. In fact brain decoding is not the primary goal of our laboratory. Our aim is to address a basic issue in neuroscience: to understand how the brain represents the visual world. We do this by constructing ENcoding models that describe how complex stimuli (e.g., natural movies) are reflected in brain activity. The inverse operation, DEcoding, simply provides us another way to assess representation. However, the importance of understanding representation in systems neuroscience isn’t really obvious to the public, while the brain decoding results are easily accessible.

    We also agree that brain decoding is often overhyped in the popular press. For example, although we strongly discourage journalists from using the term “mind reading” to describe our work, this sensationalistic term often creeps into stories anyway. One way to deal with this would be to avoid the press entirely, but this seems a poor solution. After all, scientists receive funding from the public trough, and so it is our responsibility to explain how our work might relate to society. For this reason we have stated consistently that our work provides some of the simple elements that will ultimately be necessary to build a general brain decoder that could serve as a powerful brain-computer interface. Unfortunately, we have little control over what is ultimately published in the news, and the problem has only become worse with the proliferation of news outlets and the 24 hour news cycle. All we can do against this tide is to provide a consistent and balanced perspective on the work.

    Shinji Nishimoto

    Jack L. Gallant