In recent years, physicists and neuroscientists have developed an arsenal of tools that can detect certain types of thoughts and transmit information about them to other brains. This has made communication between the brain and the brain a reality.
There have been experiments in direct brain-brain communication before, but not like this: it is now spreading to entire networks. A team of neuroscientists has developed a three-person brain network that allows participants to send thoughts to each other, in this case, to play a Tetris-style game. Experts believe that this wild experiment could be extended to connect complex networks of many people.
How does it work?
It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEG) that record the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields. The new system has been dubbed “BrainNet” and they claim that it could be used to connect many different minds, including over the Internet.
“We present BrainNet, which, to our knowledge, is the first non-invasive direct multi-person brain-brain interface for collaborative problem solving,” the researchers write. “ The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication.”
Whether or not it is beyond science fiction, this system could teach us more about how the human brain works on a deeper level.
In the experiment, two “senders” were connected to EEG electrodes and asked to play a Tetris-style game that involved falling blocks. They had to decide whether each block needed to be rotated or not. To do this, they were asked to stare at one of the two flashing LEDs on either side of the screen, one flashing at 15 Hz and the other at 17 Hz, which produced different signals in the brain, which the EEG could pick up.
These choices were transmitted to a single “receiver” through a TMS boundary that could generate ghostly flashes of light in the mind of the receiver, known as phosphenes. The receiver could not see the entire playing area, but had to rotate the falling block if a flash signal was sent.
With 5 different experiments of 3 people each, the researchers reached an average level of precision of 81.25% , a more than interesting figure for the first tests.
Although the current system can only transmit one ‘bit’ (or flash) of data at a time, the team at the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University believe that the configuration can be expanded in the future.
The same group of researchers has been able to successfully link two brains, getting participants to play a game of 20 questions against each other. Again, phantom phosphene flashes were used to transmit information, in this case “yes” or “no”.
For now it is very slow and not entirely reliable, and the neuroscientists community has yet to thoroughly review this work, but it does show us an outlandish way through which we could exchange ideas with each other in the future, perhaps even sharing. mental resources to try to tackle important problems.
“Our results increase the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a ‘social network’ of connected brains,” the authors write.
Reference: BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains. Linxing Jiang, Andrea Stocco, Darby M. Losey, Justin A. Abernethy, Chantel S. Prat, Rajesh PN Rao arXiv: 1809.08632v1