Washington – Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences said they were able to transmit signals from one brain to another over the internet. The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Andrea Stocco, assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and his team used a brain interface between five pairs of participants.

In every couple there was one person who wore a cap connected to an electrocephalography machine (EEG) that recorded brain activity, while the other was wearing a magnetic coil position behind their head.

Researchers said this is the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the “20 Questions” game. Photo: 3sob

“We’re making steps into a possible future we could only dream of when we were kids,” said Stocco according to the university’s press release.

While in dark rooms, the scientists asked, in 20 rounds, a series of questions that had to be answered by one of the couple’s participant with a “no” or a “yes”, focusing on one of two flashing LED lights on a monitor. The “yes” answer generated such a strong response that it stimulated the visual cortex and caused the other person’s brain to see a flash of a light.

“So we have this method for recording brain signals from one person and we transmit these signals to another person. We transmit them using a magnet that sits over the head and can influence brain activity,” described UW Senior Darby Lowsey.

These findings are important, since the transfer of information between brains could be used in the medical field and allow people to collaborate on problem-solving. “We can create a connection so that what the person feels is exactly what the second person feels as well,” said Stocco.

The yes or no game

In rooms a mile apart on campus, two participants played the game. The participant wearing a cap connected to an EEG picked an object that the other participant, with the magnetic coil, had to guess by asking questions.

The first one answered the questions by simply looking to a monitor that had LED lights that indicated “yes” or “no”. The yes answer sent a signal to the questioner via Internet while the no answer sent none.

The second participant knew the right answer because the brain activity in the first player delivered a signal to his or her electric coil, translated into a visual interruption or flash of light known as a “phosphene”. However, not all the signs were the same for all the participants.

“I consistently saw lines,” Stocco said. “Some saw lightning bolts, blobs or shapes.”

Surprisingly, 72 percent of the time, the participants answered correctly, which means that they interpreted the visual interruption as the answer. “The brain is trying to make sense of a signal that normally doesn’t exist,” Stocco said. “The brain is saying, ‘I don’t know what this thing is, but I think it’s a line.’ If we can control that with more precision, we could make a shape, or an object.

Source: The University of Washington