Video: first ever human brain-to-brain interface successfully tested

Researchers from the University of Washington used brain signals from one individual to remotely control another person's body in real time.

For the first time researchers in the US have created what they believe to be the first ever non-invasive human brain-to-brain interface. Scientists from the University of Washington successfully sent brain signals via the internet from one individual to another, remotely controlling the recipient’s body movements.

The experiment took the form of a video game, with researcher Rajesh Rao watching a screen with a simple video game on it. The game involved shooting down enemy missiles, with Rao 'firing' the game’s cannon by imagining moving his right hand (but not actually moving it).

A second researcher, Andrea Stocco, was positioned with his hand over a keyboard hooked up to the game. When Rao imagined firing the cannon Stocco’s hand involuntarily moved, hitting the keyboard. Stocco described the feeling as being like an involuntary 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.”

University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind. Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right, wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain. Image credit: University of Washington

The connection between Stocco and Rao was created using established ECG (electroencephalography) technology. This is regularly used to detect and measure brain activity by recording electrical activity.

The activity recorded in Rao’s brain was then replicated in Stocco’s using transcranial magnetic stimulation; a non-invasive way to stimulate the brain to elicit a response.

A press release from the University describes how the magnetic coils were “directly over the brain region that controls a person’s right hand. By activating these neurons, the stimulation convinced the brain that it needed to move the right hand.”

Previously brain-to-brain interfaces have been successfully conducted between rats and between rats and humans. In the latter experiment a human was hooked up to ECG equipment and a rat to a focused ultrasound (FUS) transmitter that stimulated bits of the brain without damaging it. When the ECG detected a certain sort of brain activity it sent a signal to the FUS transmitter that caused the mice to move its tail.

The scientists who conducted this human brain-to-brain experiment though are quick to stress the limitations of the technology: it doesn’t read thoughts, just simple brain signals; you might compare it to the difference between understanding the lyrics of a song, and simply registering, using a yes/no binary, whether you could hear sound at all.

The cycle of the experiment. Brain signals from the “Sender” are recorded and transmitted over the internet to the TMS machine, which causes an upward movement of the right hand of the “Receiver.” Image credit: University of Washington

“I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” said Chantel Prat, assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and Stocco’s wife and research partner who helped conduct the experiment. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”

The research also took place in ideal conditions in a laboratory with both participants hooked up to complex instruments and equipment.

Despite this, Stocco still outlined ambitious future users of the technology, giving the example situation of a pilot becoming incapacitated, and an attendant on the ground helping control a passenger’s movements to land the plane. Stocco also noted that brain signals are essentially a universal language; the languages spoken and understood by participants doesn’t matter.

“Brain-computer interface is something people have been talking about for a long, long time,” said Prat. “We plugged a brain into the most complex computer anyone has ever studied, and that is another brain.”

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Infrastructure Engineer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking to find a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

    £21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

    £50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss