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The field of neuroscience — the study of brains and the nervous system — has taken some major leaps in recent years. Scientists can now gather real-time electrical activity from the brain during actions and thoughts, which is helping to pinpoint the exact location of brain lesions caused by strokes, and is leading to promising treatments for epilepsy and even profound paralysis. Joseph Sirosh describes these advances in a keynote presented at Strata Hadoop World last week:

In the video, Dr Kai Miller, Neurosurgery Resident at Stanford University, described an ingenious experiment designed to link brain activity to perception. In the experiment, several epilepsy patients were shown a series of images, each of which was either a house or a face. Simultaneously, electrical activity on the brain surface was measured by 64 separate brain sensors. The goal is to be able to create a model from the brain sensor data that can accurately predict what the patients is seeing: a face or a house.

You can try creating such a model yourself in the Azure Machine Learning competition, Decoding Brain Signals. To enter the competition, you'll need to train a model on the competition data, and have it accurately predict the images seen by other patients in the study (whose data remains hidden from all participants). You can use the built-on Azure ML Studio machine learning modules, or you can build your model entirely using R and R packages (this Tutorial using R explains the process).

Your submission will be ranked against the other participants according to prediction accuracy. As of this writing, the best model has a 73.75% accuracy rate. If your model can do better than that, and remains the best model when the competition closes on July 1, you could win $3,000 in prize money. (Second place gets$1,500 and third place gets \$500.) Note that you'll need a free Microsoft Azure account to participate, and there is no charge for training, validating or submitting your competition models. For more information on the competition and how to submit a model, follow the link below.

Cortana Intelligence Gallery: Competition: Decoding Brain Signals