Washington D.C. – Scientists from the University of Washington have finally achieved to use direct brain-to-brain connection by enabling a group of individuals to play a question and answer game by sending out signals from the brain of one participant to that of another via the internet. The research has been detailed in the popular science journal PLOS ONE.

It is true that scientists had to use some very complicated apparatus and many hours to make this brain connection possible. However, the experiment has shown that it’s possible to connect two brains by allowing one person guess what another one is thinking.

“Telepathy” is the purported transmission of information from one person to another without using any of our known sensory channels or physical interaction. The term was created in 1882 by the scholar Frederic W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychological Research. Credit: Truth Funders

Andrea Stocco, an assistant professor of psychology at the University and the lead author of the study, said that the brain-to-brain experiment conducted by her and her team is the most complex to have been carried out on humans. She informed that the experiment used visual conscious experiences via signals, constituting a process that needs two individuals to collaborate.

“This is the most complex brain-to-brain experiment, I think, that’s been done to date in humans […] It uses conscious experiences through signals that are experienced visually, and it requires two people to collaborate,” reported Eurek Alert to be said by lead author Andrea Stocco, an assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

The experiment

It was performed in dark rooms, which were parts of two laboratories located almost a mile away from each other. It counted with five pairs of volunteers, each of which played twenty rounds of the questions and answers game. Each of those rounds had eight objects, and the participants were required to answer three questions correctly for solving the game.

One of the participants had to wear a cap connected to an EEG (electroencephalography) machine, a device designed for recording electrical brain activities. Next, the respondent was shown an object on the computer screen and the inquirer saw a list containing possible objects along with several associated questions. The inquirer sent questions with the click of a mouse, and the respondent had to answer in “yes” or “no” just by focusing on any of the two LED light flashing on the monitor. Here, it must be mentioned that the two lights were flashing at diverse frequencies.

Participants were able to guess the correct object in 72 percent of the real games, compared with just 18 percent of the control rounds. Incorrect guesses in the real games could be caused by several factors, the most likely being uncertainty about whether a phosphene had appeared.

“They have to interpret something they’re seeing with their brains,” said co-author Chantel Prat, a faculty member at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and a UW associate professor of psychology. “It’s not something they’ve ever seen before.”

Past studies

The study builds on the UW team’s initial experiment in 2013 when it was the first to demonstrate a direct brain-to-brain connection between humans. Other scientists have connected the brains of rats and monkeys, and transmitted brain signals from a human to a rat, using electrodes inserted into animals’ brains. In the 2013 experiment, the UW team used noninvasive technology to send a person’s brain signals over the Internet to control the hand motions of another person.

The first experiment evolved out of research by co-author Rajesh Rao, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, on brain-computer interfaces that enable people to activate devices with their minds. In 2011, Rao began collaborating with Stocco and Prat to determine how to link two human brains together.

Source: Eurek Alert