The future is now. Scientists are the University of Washington have successfully sent a brain signal from one person to another, causing the second to move. In the experiment, Rjesh Rao sent information from his brain to that of Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus over the internet. The signal caused Stocco’s finder to push a key on a keyboard. Check it out in the video above.
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
The August 12 experiment had Rao sitting in a lab with an electrode cap, which was hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain. Stacco, sitting in another lab across campus wore a swim cab which a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement in the brain.
Rao’s task was to play a simple video game with his mind. He looked at a computer screen and when he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imaged moving his right hand. Almost instantly, Stocco, who was also wearing noise cancelling earbuds and not looking at a computer screen, “involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him.”
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“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.”
Matthew Bryan, Bryan Djunaedi, Joseph Wu, Alex Dadgar and Dev Sarma are the students involved in the experiment responsible for writing the computer code for translating Rao’s brain signals into a command in Stocco’s brain.
“Brain-computer interface is something people have been talking about for a long, long time,” said Chantel Prat, Stocco’s wife and assistant professor in psychology at the UW. “We plugged a brain into the most complex computer anyone has ever studied, and that is another brain.”
While this experiment was groundbreaking, it only transmitted very simple information. Rao and Stocco’s next experiment will attempt to transmit more complex commands from one brain to another.