WWII Code-Breaking Techniques Inspire Interpretation of Brain Data

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This diagram shows how brain activity theoretically recorded from a human could be decoded so that neural activity that causes hand movement is aligned with the actual bodily movement. The study was conducted on animal models. Credit: Northwestern University / University of Pennsylvania / Georgia Tech

Enigma machine used by the German military and intelligence in World War II to encode and decode war communications. Credit: Courtesy of Robert Malmgren / acquired from Wikimedia Commons under confirmed public domain usage laws rules

Eva Dyer in her office at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Dyer is at the location at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is looking at a meso-scale image of a mouse brain section she created in collaboration with Bobby Kasthuri at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source synchrotron.  Credit: Georgia Tech / Rob Felt

Neuron firings were mathematically decoded and graphed into patterns, such that researchers were able to match the firings of populations of neurons behind arm movements to the actual bodily movements in animal models. The frequency of neuron firings denoted in the red bar does not visually match the arm movements the firings cause. Decoding was necessary to make the connection. Credit: Northwestern University / University of Pennsylvania / Georgia Tech