Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco of the University of Washington have scored a first by achieving direct brain-to-brain communication between humans. In the study information about an on screen target was passed from the brain of a ‘sender’ to that of a ‘receiver’ to successfully complete the task.
The non-invasive technique involved the use of an EEG recording of the brain activity of the sender as he participated in a video game where he had to fire a cannon at rockets being fired by a pirate ship, whilst avoiding firing at supply planes. This pattern was passed to a computer and the hand motor imagery was detected.
The pattern was then sent over the Internet to another computer using Skype. The information was used to stimulate the left motor cortex of the receiver via a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil. This resulted in motion of the receiver’s hand to strike the right key on the keyboard and thus perform a successful firing of the cannon.
Future studies will introduce a two-way flow of information between the brains. They will include more complex information and also see larger pools of subjects being used. In years to come Stocco believes that the techniques will have applications such as allowing patients with disabilities to communicate their intentions with carers.