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Scientists achieve human brain-to-brain interface

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August 28, 2013

Rajesh Rao (left) has used his mind to move the hand of Andrea Stucco (right)

Rajesh Rao (left) has used his mind to move the hand of Andrea Stucco (right)

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Brain-to-brain interfacing – it’s previously been accomplished between two rats, but now it’s been achieved between two humans. Rajesh Rao, who studies computational neuroscience at the University of Washington, has successfully used his mind to control the hand of his colleague, Andrea Stucco. The two were linked via a Skype connection.

The experiment, which was conducted on Aug. 12th but announced just yesterday, worked as follows ...

Rao put on a skull cap containing electrodes, which was in turn connected to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine. Via those electrodes, the machine was able to detect the electrical activity in his brain.

Meanwhile, across the campus, Stocco wore a swim cap that was hooked up to a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) machine. That machine was capable of activating a magnetic stimulation coil, which was integrated into the cap directly above Stocco’s left motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movements of the hands.

Back in Rao’s lab, the scientist watched a screen displaying a video game, in which the player must tap the spacebar in order to shoot down a rocket – a computer in Stocco’s lab was linked to that same game. Instead of tapping the bar, however, Rao merely visualized himself doing so. The EEG nonetheless detected the electrical impulse associated with that imagined movement, and proceeded to send a signal – via the Skype connection – to the TMS in Stocco’s lab.

This caused the coil in the cap to stimulate his left motor cortex, which in turn made his right hand move. Given that his finger was already resting over the spacebar on his computer, this caused a cannon to fire in the game, successfully shooting down the rocket. He compared the feeling to that of a nervous tic.

A diagram of the process used in the experiment

It should be noted that neither of the scientists could see each others’ Skype video feeds, plus Stocco was wearing noise-canceling earbuds, so no subconscious cues could pass between them. Rao is also quick to state that the technology couldn’t be used to read another person’s mind, or to make them do things without their willing participation.

The researchers now hope to establish two-way communications between participants’ brains, as the video game experiment (which can be seen below) just utilized one-way communication. Additionally, they would like to transmit more complex packets of information between brains. Ultimately, they hope that the technology could be used for things like allowing non-pilots to land planes in emergency situations, or letting disabled people transmit their needs to caregivers.

Source: University of Washington

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
20 Comments

next step the squid from the movie strange days. can't wait!

Chizzy
28th August, 2013 @ 11:41 am PDT

An amazing accomplishment.

Stepping back a bit, can the electrical activity pattern of a normal walking person be stored on a computer, then played back when attached to a disabled person. Direct interface to limbs bypassing the damage rather then brain to brain.

Or better yet, same device using disabled person't brain linked to limbs, in essence creating an artificial nervous system.

Its an old topic, but last time it received fan fare, this kind technology was not available. Worth a re-visit.

Nairda
28th August, 2013 @ 08:32 pm PDT

Drill masters will love it : finally, they'll be able to march the entire platoon in a nicely synchronized way ;-)

Bart Viaene
29th August, 2013 @ 03:31 am PDT

let's hope interfasing will be use for the good

interface
29th August, 2013 @ 03:59 am PDT

I believe it is just one small step away from "Driving Miss Daisy"!

Seriously, i really like the structure of the experiment. It will be interesting to keep up with the ensuing progress and how it can benefit society, particularly those with diminished motor function.

Mike Hill
29th August, 2013 @ 04:53 am PDT

beautiful as where not only can it be used as one application this is a foundation to many variations like handicap of anytype related to humans for one example election impulses to be transmitted to artificial mechanical limbs or even other robotic devices so this will change humanity to the next level as enhancing the normal man but giving the abnormal (handicap) a step up to normality, so thanks the heavens above whatever religion anyone maybe and push super hard unlimited the funding fast as can and dont let this getaway like the gingerbread man you see.

Happy Joy
29th August, 2013 @ 05:42 am PDT

Im sorry, Im glad this is possible. BUT the thought of someone else in my head moving my body parts is creepy as hell. Hollywood is going to make a movie about this.

Mexoplex 5 Million
29th August, 2013 @ 05:50 am PDT

I agree with Mexoplex. Its VERY cool! But also a tad creepy.

Joe Sobotka
29th August, 2013 @ 09:18 am PDT

They already did make a movie about it called Brainstorm with Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085271/

The computer sequences were cutting edge and close to now reality.

Facebook User
29th August, 2013 @ 09:28 am PDT

next - the Vulcan mind-meld

dsiple
29th August, 2013 @ 09:38 am PDT

Nothing good can come of this.

MintHenryJ
29th August, 2013 @ 09:43 am PDT

Innovative technology... but i can see this easily evolving to "human drones" and eventually falling in the hands of Radicals, Extremists & Cartels. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Stanley Staine
29th August, 2013 @ 10:17 am PDT

"Hollywood is going to make a movie about this. "

Check out, "All Of Me", a movie with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.

Dan Parker
29th August, 2013 @ 10:18 am PDT

Vedic science has decoded this type of parapsychological phenomena as the denser ascpect of the thamasic(compressive) state of the brain which operates perpetually as conscientiousness . The dynamic nature of space is defined by the three guna(charechterisics) state or perpetual harmonic oscillatory state the follows axiomatic rules of self-similarity and scale in-variance . The resonance in space induces resonance in the brain at 3.57 cycles per axiomatic cycle and that is recorded as the theta brainwave state, Any addition in cyclic rate induces greater activity which the individual recognises as a spontaneous thought. While asleep the same factor induces the dream state. See www dot kapillavastu dot com index html for a complete theoretical derivation

Nilesh Modhwadia
29th August, 2013 @ 10:24 am PDT

I can guess what will drive this technology forward as it has so many other technologies we find common today . . . . . . the porn industry!

pbenjamins
29th August, 2013 @ 10:29 am PDT

Now, to form my armies of minions I only need a direct interface with the brains of many strangers like.... Google Glass!!

Ozuzi
29th August, 2013 @ 06:37 pm PDT

How about hooking a dog to the sending end and a human to the receiving and seeing what a dog wants to do even when you tell them to sit and stay.

Andrew Zuckerman
29th August, 2013 @ 11:32 pm PDT

This reminds me the film "Gamer". Its amazing how science improve every day.

Gabriel Pérez Aguiar
31st August, 2013 @ 10:51 am PDT

would it still work if one of them was asleep?

Ariel Gonzalez
1st September, 2013 @ 02:49 pm PDT

the difficulty is with their ability to target small groups of neurons and with reading from simmilar.

They also need to map corresponding regions in the target brain.

All brains grow differently because we all experience and learn at different times. For two brains to be exactly the same they would have to exist in exactly the same space which is not possible.

You cant just scan one brain and then target the same area in another brain because the other brain is not exactly the same. The results would be mixed. They are roughly the same but that is not precise enough to allow the data transfer at the detail that would be on par with verbal communication, for that we need to develop much more sophisticated tageted TMS systems. One day we will be able to do this but not today.

Foxy1968
9th September, 2013 @ 10:15 pm PDT
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