Boffins make brain-to-brain direct communication breakthrough

So long as you just want to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it's fine

Pinky and the Brain

University of Washington (UW) researchers have entered the realm of sci-fi (sort of), and achieved brain-to-brain direct communication. Sadly, these mind-reading superpowers are limited to responding to 'yes' or 'no' questions.

Researchers hooked one person up to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine that records electrical brain activity. That subject, or “respondent”, is shown a picture of an object.

The second participant, the “inquirer” then sends questions, and the respondent answers "yes" or "no" by focusing on one of two LED lights flashing at different frequencies.

Both answers send a signal to the inquirer via the internet that activate a magnetic coil positioned behind the inquirer's head. But only a "yes" answer generates a response intense enough to stimulate the visual cortex and cause the inquirer to see a flash of light known as a phosphene.

“This is the most complex brain-to-brain experiment, I think, that's been done to date in humans,” said lead author Andrea Stocco from UW's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. “It uses conscious experiences through signals that are experienced visually, and it requires two people to collaborate.”

The experiment was carried out in dark rooms almost a mile apart and involved five pairs of participants, who played 20 rounds of the question-and-answer game.

The sessions were a random mixture of 10 real games and 10 control games. Participants were able to guess the correct object in 72 per cent of the real games, compared with just 18 per cent of the control rounds.

Other experiments have shown the possibility of transmitted brain signals in rats and monkeys, but the UW team believe their experiment could be a breakthrough, and are determined to decode more complex interactions and brain processes.

If successful, the process could prove invaluable for rehabilitating people who have suffered from strokes, accident or ADHD. ®


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017