Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Researchers perform first human brain-to-brain interface

University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe
is the first non-invasive human-to-human brain interface, with one
researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the
hand motions of a fellow researcher.
Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation,
Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side
ofthe UW campus, causing Stocco's finger to move on a keyboard.
While researchers at Duke University have demonstrated brain-to-brain
communication between two rats, and Harvard researchers have
demonstrated it between a human and a rat, Rao and Stocco believe this
is the first demonstration of human-to-human brain interfacing.
"The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way
to connect brains," Stocco said. "We want to take the knowledge of a
brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain."
The researchers captured the full demonstration on video recorded in
both labs. The version available at the end of this story has been
edited for length.
Rao, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, has been
working on brain-computer interfacing in his lab for more than 10
years and just published a textbook on the subject. In 2011, spurredby
the rapid advances in BCI technology, he believed he could demonstrate
the concept of human brain-to-brain interfacing. So he partnered with
Stocco, a UW research assistant professor in psychology at the UW's
Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
On Aug. 12, Rao sat in his lab wearing a cap with electrodes hookedup
to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity
in the brain. Stocco was in his lab across campus wearing a purple
swim cap marked with the stimulation site for the transcranial
magnetic stimulation coil that was placed directly over his left motor
cortex, which controls hand movement.
The team had a Skype connection set up so the two labs could
coordinate, though neither Rao nor Stocco could see the Skype screens.
Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with
his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he
imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his
hand), causing a cursor to hit the "fire" button. Almost
instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and
wasn'tlooking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right
index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as
if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving
involuntarily to 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," Rao
said."This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain
to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation
directly between the two brains."
The technologies used by the researchers for recording and stimulating
the brain are both well-known. Electroencephalography, orEEG, is
routinely used by clinicians and researchers to record brain activity
noninvasively from the scalp. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or
TMS, is a non-invasive way of delivering stimulation tothe brain to
elicit a response. Its effect depends on where the coil is placed; in
this case, it was placed directly over the brain region that controls
a person's right hand. By activating these neurons, the stimulation
convinced the brain that it needed to move the right hand.
Computer science and engineering undergraduates Matthew Bryan, Bryan
Djunaedi, Joseph Wu and Alex Dadgar, along with bioengineering
graduate student Dev Sarma, wrote the computer code for the project,
translating Rao's brain signals into a command for Stocco's brain.
o Source:Science Daily

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