University of Washington researchers led by Dr Rajesh Rao have reported how they were successful in transmitting the brain signals from one person to another and, within a fraction of second, control the hand of the second person. The research was followed by the team’s initial demonstration a year ago.
The experiment was first carried on two UW students- Darby Losey and Jose Ceballos. Their brains were connected using Electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The sender (Losey) was hooked to an EEG machine which reads brain activity and sends electric signals over the internet in one room on the Washington-based campus. These signals were sent to the receiver (Ceballos) who was seated in another campus half a mile way where communication between the two was not possible. The receiver was fitted with a cap and transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed closer to the motor area of the brain that controls hand movements. The duo was asked to play a simple tower defense game in which they had to defend a city by firing cannon at the incoming rockets launched by a pirate ship. In this experiment the sender had access to the screen while the receiver had his right hand positioned over a touchpad controller.
When the sender thought about moving his hand to fire the canon, the signals were sent to the receiver, who automatically pressed the touchpad and fired the canon.
The experiment was successfully repeated with three pairs of students. Researchers found that there was a difference in accuracy, ranging from 25 to 83 percent. Differences were mostly due to a sender failing to accurately execute the thought to send the “fire” command. The researchers also were able to calculate the exact amount of information that was exchanged between the two brains.
The researchers hope that the technology could help rehabilitate stroke patients and those who have suffered brain damage. It could also allow skilled surgeons help others conduct difficult operations from a distance or allow pilots to control a plane from the ground in an emergency.