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.”

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

    Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

    £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

    Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

    £60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

    Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

    competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits