Mind games: Researchers test first human brain-to-brain interface

Researchers at University of Washington have developed a non-invasive interface that allows one person to send a signal, via the Internet, that moves a part of another person's body. In this case, one person sent a signal that moved another's finger, according to a University announcement.

Rajesh Rao, a computer science and engineering professor, looked at a computer and imagined moving his right hand to hit a cursor and fire at a target on the screen. Almost instantaneously, assistant research professor Andrea Stocco involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing at the target, according to the announcement. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.

The accomplishment is cool, for sure, but practical applications are a ways off. Medical applications of the future could include a disabled person using the technology to communicate requests to hospital staff. And since the communication doesn't require that participants speak the same language, it could improve communication with non-English speaking patients. The researchers say the technology could be used to remotely land a plane in an emergency. Perhaps, in the future, doctors will guide interns through surgical and other procedures with their minds--without investing in a Nintendo Wii to sharpen their skills.

"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."

In a similar tech breakthrough, engineers at Brown University developed an implantable brain sensor that uses brain-to-machine communication that could someday help people with severe paralysis gain more control of their movement.

To learn more:
- see the announcement

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