Researcher Remotely Operates Colleague’s Brain Over The Internet

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Posted: 08/28/13 8:18 AM

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A network of connected brains is the Holy Grail of Internet communications: Rather than type out an email, one user simply sends his or her thoughts directly to another.

Researchers at the University of Washington recently moved one step closer to that goal with an experiment in which a researcher in one building controlled the hand movements of a colleague in another building.

“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” said researcher Andrea Stocco, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Washington.

brain-net-diagramStocco’s colleague Rajesh Rao, a professor of computer science, was hooked up to an EEG machine as he played a simple video game in which he was tasked with firing on targets. Rather than fire with a click of the mouse, Rao simply thought about moving his finger.

Meanwhile, Stocco sat in his lab across campus with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil, or TMS, placed over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement. Stocco had his hands on a keyboard but could not see a computer screen.

A computer program read the EEG signals to determine if Rao had engaged in motor imagery. If he had, it stimulated the TMS via an Internet connection. When Rao envisioned firing, Stocco’s finger almost instantaneously twitched and depressed the space bar. Stocco said moving his finger felt like a nervous tic.

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