News / Science & Technology

US Scientist Operates Colleague's Brain From Across Campus

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. (Credit: University of Washington)
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. (Credit: University of Washington)
Reuters
Scientists said Tuesday they have achieved the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington.

The feat is less a conceptual advance than another step in the years-long progress that researchers have made toward brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical arm or a computer cursor - or, in more and more studies, can affect another brain.

Much of the research has been aimed at helping paralyzed patients regain some power of movement, but bioethicists have raised concerns about more controversial uses.

Jianhui, a 5-year-old monkey, prompts a mechanical arm via brain signals at a laboratory of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Feb. 23, 2012.Jianhui, a 5-year-old monkey, prompts a mechanical arm via brain signals at a laboratory of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Feb. 23, 2012.
x
Jianhui, a 5-year-old monkey, prompts a mechanical arm via brain signals at a laboratory of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Feb. 23, 2012.
Jianhui, a 5-year-old monkey, prompts a mechanical arm via brain signals at a laboratory of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Feb. 23, 2012.
In February, for instance, scientists led by Duke University Medical Center's Miguel Nicolelis used electronic sensors to capture the thoughts of a rat in a lab in Brazil and sent via Internet to the brain of a rat in the United States. The second rat received the thoughts of the first, mimicking its behavior. And electrical activity in the brain of a monkey at Duke, in North Carolina, recently was sent via the Internet, controlling a robot arm in Japan.

That raised dystopian visions of battalions of animal soldiers - or even human ones - whose brains are remotely controlled by others. Some of Duke's brain-computer research, though not this study, received funding from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

Wired keyboard

For the new study, funded by the U.S. Army Research Office and other non-military federal agencies, UW professor of computer science and engineering Rajesh Rao, who has studied brain-computer interfaces for more than a decade, sat in his lab on Aug. 12 wearing a cap with electrodes hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain.

He looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game but only mentally. At one point, he imagined moving his right hand to fire a cannon, making sure not to actually move his hand.

The EEG electrodes picked up the brain signals of the "fire cannon!" thought and transmitted them to the other side of the UW campus.

There, Andrea Stocco of UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences was wearing a purple swim cap with a device, called a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil, placed directly over his left motor cortex, which controls the right hand's movement.

When the move-right-hand signal arrived from Rao, Stocco involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. He said the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily was like that of a nervous tic.

“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” said Rao.

Other experts suggested the feat was not particularly impressive. It's possible to capture one of the few easy-to-recognize EEG signals and send “a simple shock ...  into the other investigator's head,” said Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, who was not part of the research.

Applied use

Rao agreed that what his colleague jokingly called a “Vulcan mind meld” reads only simple brain signals, not thoughts, and cannot be used on anyone unknowingly. But it might one day be harnessed to allow an airline pilot on the ground help someone land a plane whose own pilot is incapacitated.

The research has not been published in a scientific journal, something university spokeswoman Doree Armstrong admits is “a bit unusual.” But she said the team knew other researchers are working on this same thing and they felt “time was of the essence.”

Besides, she said, they have a video of the experiment which “they felt it could stand on its own.”  The video can be seen here:



The absence of a scientific publication that other researchers could scrutinize did not sit well with some of the nation's leading brain-computer-interface experts. All four of those reached by Reuters praised UW's Rao, but some were uneasy with the announcement and one called it “mostly a publicity stunt.” The experiment was not independently verified.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid