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Scientists Interface Human Brains Over Internet

UW students Darby Losey, left, and Jose Ceballos are positioned in two different buildings on campus as they would be during a brain-to-brain interface demonstration. The sender, left, thinks about firing a cannon at various points throughout a computer game. That signal is sent over the Web directly to the brain of the receiver, right, whose hand hits a touchpad to fire the cannon.Mary Levin, U of Wash.

Telepathy is usually the stuff of science fiction. But transmitting signals from one person’s brain to another may someday become a reality, say researchers at the University of Washington.

In a test repeated from a year ago, subjects were able to control hand motions of other people by thinking about the movement, while their brain signals were transmitted over the Internet.

The three pairs of participants were located in different buildings on the university campus, without any possibility of verbal or visual communication.

The sender, wearing a skull cap with electrodes, watched a computer game that involved shooting at a pirate ship, and thought about moving a hand to fire rockets.

Those brain signals were picked up by the electrodes, and sent over the Internet to the receiver's cap, which had an electromagnetic coil positioned over the part of brain that controls hand movements. The receiver could not see the game.

When the interface was successful, the receiver's hand would twitch, and press a touchpad that would actually fire the rocket. The researchers report a range of accuracy, from 25 to 83 percent.

After receiving an additional $1 million grant, researchers say their goal is to develop a technology for transferring more complex knowledge directly from one brain to another.