Usually, one brain controls one body. Scientists at the University of Washington have figured out how to make one brain control two bodies.
And no, it’s not science fiction.
One researcher, Rajesh Rao, wore a cap studded with electrodes and hooked up to a electroencephalography machine, which senses electrical activity in the brain. On the other side of the university campus, his colleague, Andrea Stocco, wore a different cap. This one held a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil, and researchers placed it directly over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement.
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Then Rao played a simple video game — with his mind alone.
While he imagined moving his right hand to fire a cannon — but didn’t — the electroencephalography read his brain stimulation. Rao, who is a computer science and engineering professor, built an application with the help of his computer-science undergrads to transfer that information over the internet to the transcranial magnetic stimulation coil on Stocco’s head.
And Stocco’s finger twitched, hitting a space bar, firing a cannon, and demonstrating for the first time that one human brain can directly cause another human body to move, over the internet. Stocco said that it felt like a “nervous tic.”
“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”
Duke University researchers have demonstrated brain-to-brain communication between rats, the University of Washington said, and Harvard scientists have managed to establish communication between a human and a rat (one hopes human to rat and not vice versa), this is the first human-to-human brain stimulus that Rao knows of.
Unless, of course, the CIA figured this out decades ago and used it in Cold War experiments with hapless, LSD’d GIs.
The technology, however, is not sophisticated enough to change a person’s mind or make them complete complex maneuvers, Stocco cautioned.
“I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” University of Washington psychology professor Chantel Prat said. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”
At least not yet.
“We plugged a brain into the most complex computer anyone has ever studied, and that is another brain,” Prat added.
Hat tip: Gizmodo