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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid