Every day seems to bring new revelations in the area of neuroscience.
|image: University of Washington|
Over the past year we have learned that scientists have been working on “neural dust” to create a remote-controlled computer pathway to the brain; that scientists have been successful implanting false memories in mice; an experiment at Harvard enabled a human to remote control a mouse by thought alone; and the world’s first “telepathic e-mail” was sent.
However, when it was announced last year that remote-controlled humans via the Internet became a reality, it was still met with disbelief. The research team from the University of Washington who conducted this experiment is now announcing that they not only have duplicated their original experiment, but believe that they have moved a step closer to making this a viable technology that could be rolled out in the not-too-distant future. Their full press release with video follows our initial report below.
We recently reported on the release of a secret DARPA mind control program at Arizona State University. Part of that research was focused specifically on the attempt to replicate through language the same results obtained with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which is a way to directly control movements, speech, and one’s perception of reality via electromagnetic waves aimed at the cerebral cortex. Julie Beal also reported on DARPA’s solicitation for portable brain recorders that could eventually be used in every classroom in America. Clearly there is a will to put research into action.
But so far, the ability to remote control an object from a distance with the mind alone has been limited to video games, drones, and the above-mentioned mouse. However, as you can see in the video below, a human-to-human remote link has been established. A researcher was able to control the hand movements of a person jacked in to the “brain net” in a completely different building:
As is typical, researchers are downplaying the technology by stressing that this type of stimulation is only possible through consenting participants. Yet they repeatedly tout how wonderful it is because it is “non-invasive.” With nanotechnology such as that used in neural dust, a pathway can easily be opened non-invasively (or surreptitiously), and control can be achieved wirelessly. Julie Beal has speculated that perhaps this type of wireless control over another human being’s brain contributed to the strange “short circuits” that have been seen in many news reporters. It’s no longer beyond the realm of possibility.
What once was the craziest of conspiracies has now entered the daily news cycle. And there is more to come:
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” said researcher Andrea Stocco, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Washington.
Rao noted that his study managed “a one-way flow of information.”
“The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains,” he said.
The future is now; all that remains to be answered is whether or not ethical considerations will evolve along with the technology, or will simply be bypassed altogether. Given that the U.S. Army is funding this research, those who are skeptical of this technology only being used in a beneficial way have quite a bit of historical precedent upon which to base their concern.
UW study shows direct brain interface between humans
by Michelle Ma
(Activist Post emphasis added)
Sometimes, words just complicate things. What if our brains could communicate directly with each other, bypassing the need for language?
University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago. In the newly published study, which involved six people, researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person’s brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.
At the time of the first experiment in August 2013, the UW team was the first to demonstrate two human brains communicating in this way. The researchers then tested their brain-to-brain interface in a more comprehensive study, published Nov. 5 in the journal PLOS ONE.
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“The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology,” said co-author Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Now we have replicated our methods and know that they can work reliably with walk-in participants.”
Collaborator Rajesh Rao, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, is the lead author on this work.
The research team combined two kinds of noninvasive instruments and fine-tuned software to connect two human brains in real time. The process is fairly straightforward. One participant is hooked to an electroencephalography machine that reads brain activity and sends electrical pulses via the Web to the second participant, who is wearing a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed near the part of the brain that controls hand movements.
|A transcranial magnetic stimulation coil is placed over the part of the brain that controls the receiver’s right hand movements. Mary Levin, U of Wash.|
Using this setup, one person can send a command to move the hand of the other by simply thinking about that hand movement.
The UW study involved three pairs of participants. Each pair included a sender and a receiver with different roles and constraints. They sat in separate buildings on campus about a half mile apart and were unable to interact with each other in any way – except for the link between their brains.
Each sender was in front of a computer game in which he or she had to defend a city by firing a cannon and intercepting rockets launched by a pirate ship. But because the senders could not physically interact with the game, the only way they could defend the city was by thinking about moving their hand to fire the cannon.
|The sender is hooked to an electroencephalography machine that reads brain activity. A computer processes the brain signals and sends electrical pulses via the Web to the receiver across campus. Mary Levin, U of Wash.|
Across campus, each receiver sat wearing headphones in a dark room – with no ability to see the computer game – with the right hand positioned over the only touchpad that could actually fire the cannon. If the brain-to-brain interface was successful, the receiver’s hand would twitch, pressing the touchpad and firing the cannon that was displayed on the sender’s computer screen across campus.
Researchers found that accuracy varied among the pairs, ranging from 25 to 83 percent. Misses mostly were due to a sender failing to accurately execute the thought to send the “fire” command. The researchers also were able to quantify the exact amount of information that was transferred between the two brains.
Another research team from the company Starlab in Barcelona, Spain, recently published results in the same journal showing direct communication between two human brains, but that study only tested one sender brain instead of different pairs of study participants and was conducted offline instead of in real time over the Web.
Now, with a new $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the UW research team is taking the work a step further in an attempt to decode and transmit more complex brain processes.
With the new funding, the research team will expand the types of information that can be transferred from brain to brain, including more complex visual and psychological phenomena such as concepts, thoughts and rules.
They’re also exploring how to influence brain waves that correspond with alertness or sleepiness. Eventually, for example, the brain of a sleepy airplane pilot dozing off at the controls could stimulate the copilot’s brain to become more alert.
(Read a Scientific American article by Rao and Stocco about possible uses of sending thoughts directly between brains.)
The project could also eventually lead to “brain tutoring,” in which knowledge is transferred directly from the brain of a teacher to a student.
“Imagine someone who’s a brilliant scientist but not a brilliant teacher. Complex knowledge is hard to explain – we’re limited by language,” said co-author Chantel Prat, a faculty member at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and a UW assistant professor of psychology.
Other UW co-authors are Joseph Wu of computer science and engineering; Devapratim Sarma and Tiffany Youngquist of bioengineering; and Matthew Bryan, formerly of the UW.
The research published in PLOS ONE was initially funded by the U.S. Army Research Office and the UW, with additional support from the Keck Foundation.