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Scientists control another man's brain via Internet


Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have conducted the world's first non-invasive human-to-human brain interface in which one person was able to control the motions of another person via Internet.
   
Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao, a University of Washington professor, sent a brain signal to his colleague Andrea Stocco, 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. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain," Stocco, a research assistant professor in psychology at the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, said.
   
Rao sat in his lab wearing a cap with electrodes hooked up 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, researchers said.
   
Almost instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-cancelling earbuds and wasn't looking 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," said Rao.
       
Rao cautioned this technology only reads certain kinds of simple brain signals, not a person's thoughts. And it doesn't give anyone the ability to control your actions against your will.

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