“The Internet has so far been a means to connect computers. Now it can also be a means to connect brains,” says Andrea Stocco, member of the research team at the University of Washington.
The study is the first to show a non-invasive method for connecting the brains of two people. It comes a few months after the announcement of Harvard researchers about the connection between the brain of a human and an animal.
The first successful experiment of the kind was made earlier in rats and was presented last February. The ultimate goal of the experiments is to “transfer knowledge directly from one brain to another,” says Dr. Stocco now. However, the latest research concerns the transmission of much simpler signals.
The researcher Rajesh Rao, Dr. Stocco’s associate, was sitting in his laboratory wearing an electroencephalographic cap, which was recording the electrical activity in specific brain areas. The EEG signals were transmitted via Skype in the laboratory of Dr. Stocco on the other side of the campus. He did not see or listen to his colleague but was wearing a transcranial magnetic stimulation (or TMS) device, which was placed over his motor cortex, the brain area that coordinates the movements of the limbs.
When Rao was watching a video game and thinking he was moving his index finger to press a keyboard button, the signals were transmitted to the brain of Stocco and forced him to move his index finger just like he was pressing a button.
He describes the involuntary movements as “nervous tics”.
“It was both fascinating and weird to see the move I imagined being translated into a real move by a different brain,” says Rao. “It was actually a one-way information flow from my brain to his. The next step is to establish a more equal communication between the two brains”.
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