U.S. scientist operates colleague's brain from across campus
By Sharon Begley
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists said Tuesday they have achieved the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington.
The feat is less a conceptual advance than another step in the years-long progress that researchers have made toward brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical arm or a computer cursor - or, in more and more studies, can affect another brain.
Much of the research has been aimed at helping paralyzed patients regain some power of movement, but bioethicists have raised concerns about more controversial uses.
In February, for instance, scientists led by Duke University Medical Center's Miguel Nicolelis used electronic sensors to capture the thoughts of a rat in a lab in Brazil and sent via Internet to the brain of a rat in the United States. The second rat received the thoughts of the first, mimicking its behavior. And electrical activity in the brain of a monkey at Duke, in North Carolina, was recently sent via the Internet, controlling a robot arm in Japan.
That raised dystopian visions of battalions of animal soldiers - or even human ones - whose brains are remotely controlled by others. Some of Duke's brain-computer research, though not this study, received funding from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.
FINGERING A KEYBOARD
For the new study, funded by the U.S. Army Research Office and other non-military federal agencies, UW professor of computer science and engineering Rajesh Rao, who has studied brain-computer interfaces for more than a decade, sat in his lab on August 12 wearing a cap with electrodes hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain.
He looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game but only mentally. At one point, he imagined moving his right hand to fire a cannon, making sure not to actually move his hand. Continued...