How many of you have wished you could have a super power at some point in your lives? Maybe you wanted to fly, to be incredibly strong, to be invisible, or perhaps to have telepathic powers? Likely all of us have had this desire at one time or another, though actually gaining the ability was far outside the realm of possibility. However, with recent breakthroughs in brain-to-brain interfacing, telepathic communication and mind control may no longer be a thing of fantasy.
One of these major breakthroughs happened at the University of Washington, where researchers developed a non invasive human-to-human (or brain-to-brain) interface. By the end of their experiments, the results of which were published in PLOS One, one researcher was able to control the hand motions of a different researcher via brain signals (i.e thinking about moving the hand) sent over the internet.
Let’s get into the experiment. One of the researchers, called the sender, was hooked up to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine that recorded his brain activity and sent electrical pulses over the internet to the receiving researcher. On the other side of campus, the receiving researcher had a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil placed on his head, over the left motor cortex (which controls hand movements). These researchers could not communicate in any way other than through their brains. After both participants were hooked up to their respective machines, the sender began playing a computer game that required firing cannons at certain time points. When he was supposed to fire, the sender would think about moving his right hand to hit the “fire cannon” button. This brain signal was transmitted over the internet to the brain of the receiver, who was not situated in front of a computer and could not see the game. Much to the delight of the researchers, the receiver moved his right index finger to push the fire button when the signals were received.
So, here we have the beginnings of mind control. Pretty cool huh? Still, the experiment was not perfect, and the accuracy among pairs of senders/receivers ranged from 25-83%. These are great results when considering 0% of those not connected to the machines could accurately fire the cannon though.
While most therapeutic applications for the technology are far in the future, there could be many advances if the system is perfected. For example, brain-to-brain interface could allow a person with communication disabilities, such as those with locked-in syndrome, to communicate a desire for food or water.
I don’t know what the future holds, but if one day people could communicate seamlessly via portable telepathic devices, no matter the distance between them, it would make for a cool world indeed.
For more info about this awesome research, check out this video!
Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/08/brain-interface_n_6115334.html
University of Washington article: http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/08/27/researcher-controls-colleagues-motions-in-1st-human-brain-to-brain-interface/
Rao, R. P. N., Stocco, A., Bryan, M., Sarma, D., Youngquist, T. M., Wu, J., & Prat, C. S. (2014). A Direct Brain-to-Brain Interface in Humans. PLoS ONE,9(11), e111332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111332