Human brains can communicate directly with each other
A new has revealed that an international team of neuroscientists and robotics engineers have demonstrated the viability of direct brain-to-brain communication in humans.
The researchers have been able to conduct successful transmission of information via the internet between the intact scalps of two human subjects - located 5,000 miles apart.
Study coauthor Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, said that they wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways.
In the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging, Pascual-Leone, together with Giulio Ruffini and Carles Grau leading a team of researchers from Starlab Barcelona, Spain, and Michel Berg, leading a team from Axilum Robotics, Strasbourg, France, successfully transmitted the words "hola" and "ciao" in a computer-mediated brain-to-brain transmission from a location in India to a location in France using internet-linked electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted and image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies.
In the study, electrodes attached to a person's scalp record electrical currents in the brain as a person realizes an action-thought, such as consciously thinking about moving the arm or leg and the computer then interprets that signal and translates it to a control output, such as a robot or wheelchair.
The research team also added a second human brain on the other end of the system. Four healthy participants, aged 28 to 50, participated in the study. One of the four subjects was assigned to the brain-computer interface (BCI) branch and was the sender of the words; the other three were assigned to the computer-brain interface (CBI) branch of the experiments and received the messages and had to understand them.
Using EEG, the research team first translated the greetings "hola" and "ciao" into binary code and then emailed the results from India to France. There a computer-brain interface transmitted the message to the receiver's brain through noninvasive brain stimulation. The subjects experienced this as phosphenes, flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The light appeared in numerical sequences that enabled the receiver to decode the information in the message, and while the subjects did not report feeling anything, they did correctly receive the greetings.
The study was published in PLOS ONE.
(Posted on 05-09-2014)
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