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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid