Researchers at the University of Washington have achieved something that, as far as they know, is the first ever functioning human-to-human brain interface that doesn’t involve picking around inside the participants’ skulls. Using a system to transmit a brain signal via the Internet, one participant was able to control the hand of the other.
In the past, researchers have created similar setups, with the other experiments having connected two rats together, and one that has connected a human to a rat. This one, however, involved two human participants: Andrea Stocco and Rajesh Rao, with Rao being the brain signal-sender and Stocco being on the receiving end. Together, their minds coordinated to play a single video game.
The video below shows the process in action, with Rao being placed in his own lab wearing an electrodes cap connected to an electroencephalography machine, while Stocco was placed in a different lab with a purple cap and a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed over his left motor cortex. Though a Skype connection can be seen in the video, neither of the participants were able to see the displays.
From this setup, Rao was placed in front of a computer display where he could play a video game using his mind. When a target was present, Rao would imagine using his right hand to press the “fire” button. With a very slight delay, Stocco’s index finger on his right hand would then press the space bar on a keyboard (something had said felt like a tic), causing the cannon in the game to fire.
The system used wasn’t terribly complex, in that it used components that are common, among them being an EEG machine and TMS coil, as well as two computers and an Internet connection. As the researchers refine this, they want to create a means for the two participants’ minds to converse in a more “two-way” fashion, but they caution that this only works with simple brain signal, not with thoughts.
SOURCE: University of Washington