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UW Researchers Demonstrate First Direct Communication Between Human Brains

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the i'm-just-going-to-remote-in-and-fix-this-problem-for-you dept.

Science 154

An anonymous reader writes "Opening a fascinating set of ethical and legal issues, researchers at UW Seattle have demonstrated the first device to allow direct communication between two humans' brains. Effectively, they allowed a subject to play a video game with another subject's fingers. For now, the communication is uni-directional, though they intend to extend it to bi-directional. EEG sensors are attached to a subject's motor cortex to detect 'motor imagery' — imagined hand movement, in this case. That activity is translated and sent over a computer network where it triggers a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) located over Subject 2's motor cortex. Effectively, Subject 1 imagines moving their hand, and Subject 2's hand moved."

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Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (2, Funny)

He Who Has No Name (768306) | about a year ago | (#44689671)

...bring on the Kaiju, ultimate dutch rudder, we need a young priest and an old priest... ...did I miss any obvious ones?

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689795)

You forgot the most obvious one: Vulcan mind meld!

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (1)

jonyen (2633919) | about a year ago | (#44689831)

"What do you want?"
"Inception. Is it possible?"

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689837)

If you use the left hand it feels like a stranger is doing it.

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (1)

BreakBad (2955249) | about a year ago | (#44689901)

Yes but this article clearly intends that you use a strangers left hand.

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44689977)

Mein Furher! I can walk!

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (1)

skids (119237) | about a year ago | (#44690031)

...did I miss any obvious ones

Giant Smurf Ponytails?

Paging Dr. Hfuhruhurr (0)

maroberts (15852) | about a year ago | (#44690057)

I couldn't fuck a gorilla!

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690109)

The first device to allow communication between 2 human brains was grandma's hand as she slapped the side of our head when us kids were doing something dangerous and beyond stupid. The next communication device was a broom when the hand didn't work.

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690433)

GitS-style 'cyberbrain' hacks?

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (0)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#44690849)

I have a new face! [imgur.com]

Re:Let's just cover the basics here real quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690923)

you missed all of the obvious ones. i don't know what the hell you're talking about. perhaps if we link brains sometime i will understand.

Misleading... (-1, Offtopic)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44689677)

Using a computer interface is not direct. What the hell, the internet doesn't care for facts, so make up something that will gain eyeballs and make profit.

Re:Misleading... (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44689711)

And using a telephone isn't contacting someone directly? Even as far as pedantry goes, that's pretty pedantic.

Re:Misleading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690077)

just like technology called "speaking" and "writing"

Re:Misleading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690371)

Not to mention that the eye is part of the brain, by many accounts

Re:Misleading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689815)

Indeed, I was led to believe that they had discovered a whole new level of telepathy, I guess not :/

Re:Misleading... (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44690141)

Nope. We're still stuck with the regular level of telepathy. Still, it comes in useful when playing poker.

Re:Misleading... (2)

vlad30 (44644) | about a year ago | (#44691007)

Yes but once the computer can record the signals and replay them without the controlling human this could get interesting

Re:Misleading... (4, Funny)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#44691307)

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.

Fuck ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689685)

I don't think the tinfoil is going to stop that ... I've been saying it for years, government freakin' mind control experiments. ;-)

Brings a whole new meaning... (5, Funny)

bosef1 (208943) | about a year ago | (#44689693)

to the "Stop Hitting Yourself" game.

I saw that movie! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689697)

there was a rat under a chef's hat, right?

Imagine the future (4, Funny)

cp5i6 (544080) | about a year ago | (#44689731)

of inet pr0n!

move that hand, move it! (2)

themushroom (197365) | about a year ago | (#44689741)

Subject 1 imagines moving their hand, and Subject 2's hand moved.

I think I saw this premise in an adult movie once

Re:move that hand, move it! (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about a year ago | (#44689983)

You forgot Step 1, sit on your hand long enough that it falls asleep and feels like someone else's...

Then when it's controlled by someone else, it's even more convincing.

Next Time... (2)

Eleint (1250116) | about a year ago | (#44689759)

Next time I murder a dude I am total using this as my defense. "But your honor its science, you can't argue with science otherwise you would have to toss all the blood evidence" Yeah, they don't let me talk in court anymore...

Re:Next Time... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44689991)

I'm using it as my offences, as in getting the judge to strangle themselves and the bailiff to shoot the jurors.
.

Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Behavio (1)

space_jake (687452) | about a year ago | (#44689767)

Phew good thing that article a few hours back has us covered.

Re:Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Beha (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44690027)

The first thing I thought, "what could possibly go wrong?"

Re:Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Beha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690317)

The first thing I thought, "what could possibly go wrong?"

Better that you know it's possible then just waking up inside the Matrix tomorrow and being none the wiser.

This is so great (0)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#44689813)

This isn't creepy at all, and I see no way this will be abused. I can't wait!

Re:This is so great (1)

X-Ray Artist (1784416) | about a year ago | (#44690183)

Resistance is futile...........

Just wait... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44689857)

until people discover they can send those signals without the computer inbetween! Just a matter of sending the proper signal to the proper antenna.

Re:Just wait... (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#44691601)

So you're saying buy stock in tin foil manufacturers?

Not that impressive (-1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#44689873)

You know those magnets that can shut down a portion of your brain if you put the plate right against your skull?

And you know how they can detect certain types of brain activity if they put sensors all of your skull?

Okay... what they did was set that plate up against one guy's head so that when it was triggered it would cause a specific motor response. Then they linked that up to the other guy. So if the brain activity was detected in guy 2 it would activate the plate on guy 1. Then guy 2 just had to time the brain activity... and bam "interface".

So yeah... not impressed.

Re:Not that impressive (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44690021)

Person ignorant of the science and engineering uses his ignorance to declare it isn't impressive.

Learn to think.

Hint: It's as impressive as hell.

Re:Not that impressive (-1, Offtopic)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#44690307)

Ignoring your stupid insult which ironically made you look foolish.

Would you mind pointing out what I got wrong? Do you not have anything?

Re:Not that impressive (1)

perceptual.cyclotron (2561509) | about a year ago | (#44691029)

His description wasn't exactly... eloquent – but he is basically correct. I'd say it's still impressive – in the same way that any successful application of bleeding-edge technology is impressive – but there's no real theoretical advancement here at all. They combined two well-established techniques: EEG-decoding (the stuff that's so well established you can buy your own crappy [neurosky.com] sets [emotiv.com] and play boring games 'with your mind'), and TMS (invented circa 1910 by this badass [lingvistika.org] - Silvanus Thompson) which now-a-days can be applied to replicate the 1950s era work of Wilder Penfield in electrical stimulation.

In other words: we were already able to trigger motor impulses externally, and we were already able to record and decode the neural signatures of sufficiently different thoughts. What they did here has huge media value, but it isn't particularly ground breaking. Even TFA states this:

The technologies used by the researchers for recording and stimulating the brain are both well-known.

Re:Not that impressive (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44690325)

You know those magnets that can shut down a portion of your brain if you put the plate right against your skull?

This explains those people walking down the street wearing headphones.

Re:Not that impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690577)

Well, yes, compared to your body of work, it's not impressive.

Keep handing in your class assignments on time--something truly worthy of praise and accolades!

verbal instructions to his own brain. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689895)

Like "Raise my left arm"? - Or "Throw the harpoon".

People are gonna come from all over. This boy's an Eskimo.

Transitional (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44689905)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator -- Hmmmmm, I will wait a few more days.

Re:Transitional (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44689933)

Those things are rather abuseable. Zap a person in the right place, and they'll come out quite convicted they just had a personal experience with God.

Re:Transitional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689987)

Those things are rather abuseable. Zap a person in the right place, and they'll come out quite convicted they just had a personal experience with God.

How many years did they get from that pulse?

Re:Transitional (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44690017)

A six pack, a bottle of Tequila and some mescaline works just as well. No wires.

It's real. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690245)

This is old news. Like over a decade old.

They've been using TMR tech for all kinds of experimental purposes. I remember coughing up my coffee upon first reading about it more than ten years ago; they were temporarily blinding people with the tech for some kind of banal attention study. The tech wasn't the focus, only mentioned in passing. It was taken for granted. And that's part of the problem; they don't know how safe it is, as this paper points out:

http://www.tmslab.org/includes/article3.pdf [tmslab.org]

But the tool works. Yay. Only the main stream believers insist that the electromagnetic spectrum can't do anything to the brain.

"Science is good and great, but only when it doesn't make me uncomfortable. I mean, criticize my iPhone? I disbelieve on principle!"

I've met smarter cats. But then, they don't use cell phones.

Re:It's real. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44690935)

Yes, because the magnetic fields emitted by a cell phone are in any way comparable to those used by TMS...

The Internal Revenue Service has a similar tool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689915)

The IRS's has a one-way communication tool to retrieve taxes from the sheeple.

A gun.

Re:The Internal Revenue Service has a similar tool (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44690003)

Threat of gun. Actual use of the gun as a communication tool only leaves you with goose feathers and meat, no more golden eggs.

Re:The Internal Revenue Service has a similar tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690205)

Threat of gun. Actual use of the gun as a communication tool only leaves you with goose feathers and meat, no more golden eggs.

Except that the remaining geese are more compliant to having their golden eggs taken.

Re:The Internal Revenue Service has a similar tool (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44690541)

Threat of gun. Actual use of the gun as a communication tool only leaves you with goose feathers and meat, no more golden eggs.

Except that the remaining geese are more compliant to having their golden eggs taken.

You'd think so. I wonder what would happen were that tested en masse.

Re:The Internal Revenue Service has a similar tool (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44690951)

Do it enough times and you'll start finding out just how many of those goose also have guns.

Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689917)

It seems the end of the world (as we know it) will be by AI controlled human zombies. They're going to be the fast, intelligent types. Yikes!

Won't use it until my brain discloses it's source (5, Interesting)

Behrooz Amoozad (2831361) | about a year ago | (#44689965)

Have you considered the very real posibility that brain may not have proper mandatory authorization and intput verification and anyone with local access can say stop your heart?

Oujia board (2, Insightful)

suso (153703) | about a year ago | (#44689969)

Sally: Mom, Bobby is moving my hand, tell him to stop.
Bobby: I'm not moving it.

Re:Oujia board (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44690051)

Mom: don't make me make you slap yourselves!

combine this... (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44689993)

...with quantum entanglement as a transmission method, and you'd really have something...

Time to reboot Star Wars Episodes 2-6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44689997)

The clones don't need to be submissive... they just need to be jacked in.

Honestly Dear (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#44690055)

I thought it was you, just trying out a new body!

Prerecorded impulses? (4, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#44690073)

Can they record and save the impulse patterns? I can see it now - just pop on my brain-stimulating hat, hit play, and I can finally Dougie!

Re:Prerecorded impulses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690255)

Just like the movie "strange days" where the lead role works like memory dealer.... pre-packaged moments in the live of anyone you like to be

Re:Prerecorded impulses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690475)

BTL chips FTW!

Re:Prerecorded impulses? (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about a year ago | (#44690533)

- I know Kung Fu!
- Show me!

Re:Prerecorded impulses? (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44690977)

I know you're being funny, but I wonder... sure, you're telling the motor cortex to do something... but it's still doing it. I wonder if this "trains" it the same way as doing it voluntarily would.

It's only creepy if you speculate. (5, Insightful)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about a year ago | (#44690087)

Okay, let's just speculate about all the ways this could be misused:

*-- Vending machines that make you reach into your pocket and pull out money whenever you pass by them.

*-- Rich handicapped people buying time on poor people's bodies.

*-- Rich people buying time on poor people's bodies, in order to do criminal things.

*-- Police officers with a 'lay down with your hands behind your back' raygun.

I'm sure I missed a few, any suggestions?

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44690239)

Yes: Drive your car at 100mph into a palm tree in the middle of the night for no reason... oh wait...

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690953)

The Intelligence Service Delux feature, if you will.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (4, Funny)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44690389)

I'm sure I missed a few, any suggestions?

My wife could use this to make me wash the dishes.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691123)

Well, she has to stand there staring at you, imagining herself doing all dishes, so I don't think she's going to save much effort here.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691519)

I think for her it's more the principle of the matter. Kind of a 'If I have to stand here doing this, so do you' type scenario.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (3, Insightful)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about a year ago | (#44690777)

*-- Rich handicapped people buying time on poor people's bodies.

*-- Rich people buying time on poor people's bodies, in order to do criminal things.

They made a movie about that, except that it was "Rich people buying time on peoples bodies to do whatever the hell they wanted," and "Rich people buying time on death row inmate's bodies to make them kill each other."

Gamer [imdb.com]

It still has some major plot holes that need to be overlooked, but I thought it was a decent sci-fi action flic.

Frederick Pohl's 1959 story was much better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691151)

*-- Rich handicapped people buying time on poor people's bodies.

*-- Rich people buying time on poor people's bodies, in order to do criminal things.

Frederick Pohl used the plot device to much better effect in his 1959 short story "The Day the Icicle Works Closed" http://aboutsf.podomatic.com/entry/2011-12-30T08_40_13-08_00 [podomatic.com]

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691467)

Truth. However, I wouldn't fault anybody for not seeing this movie.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (1)

DRMShill (1157993) | about a year ago | (#44691037)

Star Trek level technology pops up and this is where your mind goes first?

I'm thinking you're a sippy cup is half empty kind of guy.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691335)

That is some really deep-seated fear and denial you're displaying, not to mention projection -- using the phrase "sippy cup" to imply he's immature, when in fact your blatant denial of the realities of the world we live in indicate you're probably vastly less mature than someone who speculated about potential abuses of new technology, which is a reality we must all face head-on if we are to mitigate it.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (1)

psithurism (1642461) | about a year ago | (#44691093)

*-- Vending machines that make you reach into your pocket and pull out money whenever you pass by them.
Vending machine would need a huge magnetic field, to hit passersby a few feet away from it in that particular spot. Assuming it was able to target the magnetic field well enough not to simply illuminate everything in the targets brain at once (doubtful), then it will still destroy all of the targets credit cards, cell phones and anything else that might be invented to let you pay vending machines in the near future (all of the targets coins have just been ripped from pockets or are too hot to touch depending on the metals that make them up).

*-- Rich handicapped people buying time on poor people's bodies.
First, I don't see the problem here. Second, a human body is a really poor platform to take over and at the moment, this is a really tricky way to do it.

*-- Rich people buying time on poor people's bodies, in order to do criminal things.
This has always been a problem, at least in the future you can say: Whitey Bulgar shoved this mind control cap on my head, so it's not my fault. Instead of trying to convince the police that the gangsters made some non-specific threats that may have been about your dog if you didn't take their money. Once again, as long as the poor guy has a dog, I think an expensive helmet full of precisely located coils will be the least efficient way to control him.

*-- Police officers with a 'lay down with your hands behind your back' raygun.
I misread this at first. See the vending machine problem, they have to get you on the ground first before they could slip the mind control helmet on you.
and that is the one I'm worried about. The researchers say the receiver can't force you to do something against your will, but the article describes the receiver directly stimulating the motor cortex, causing the finger to move involuntarily. And other articles here have shown researchers who think they can stimulate the "moral part of the brain" or "the religious part of the brain." So, your will can become a very subjective measurement once you have some coils pressed against your skull. Given how we seem to treat criminals, prisoners, and people who are trying to get on an airplane these days, this could get scary really fast.

Re:It's only creepy if you speculate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691365)

The possibilities that require manipulation at a distance will start to happen when we all have permanent implants that are all networked -- then the NSA and other bad actors will just hack their way in and sell the ability to override safety controls when ever they want; with flimsy justifications. That's the most likely way for the police raygun thing to work.

Assuming Direct Control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690137)

That is all.

Conspiracies (0)

jjp9999 (2180664) | about a year ago | (#44690251)

Good. After it turned out the government really was watching all of us, the conspiracists can have something new to play with :)

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690257)

That means, at some point we will understand .... women???

With further development ... (4, Interesting)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year ago | (#44690279)

Would this help people with locked-in syndrome? Would they be able to use someone else's hand to act? to communicate?
Which one of the two people would have to have Parkinson's to make the resulting hand movements irregular?
Etc., Etc.

-- hendrik

Re:With further development ... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#44691003)

I think this requires you to pick up signals from the originator's motor cortex. I don't know anything about the syndrome, so unless there is something to pick up you're not going to get anywhere.

That said there could be signals, and they just don't go anywhere or are not strong enough... in which case I bet you could get it to work.

The reverse might help too! By making the cortex do things, it does them, and consider brain plasticity...

Re:With further development ... (2)

tpjunkie (911544) | about a year ago | (#44691347)

Excellent idea, from my understanding of the process demonstrated above, yes, this could work, as this would be above the neurological level of the lesion in most patients suffering from locked in syndrome. - I am a physician.

Next step (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year ago | (#44690369)

What about emotions or perhaps even thoughts?
Will it be possible?

Re:Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690713)

Will it be possible?

Yes. Though perhaps not in our lifetimes. Once we know how the brain works and we can insert gadgets into it, you could make whatever change you want.

Re:Next step (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#44690759)

Or how about physical sensation? There's money in that.

This story has mutual masturbatory overtones (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#44690523)

Couples in long distance relationships eagerly await the results.

Re:This story has mutual masturbatory overtones (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#44690783)

Without translating sight or touch, that could be really painful. If they can transfer touch sensations, well then - this is even more useful.

If the NSA does not already have this ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year ago | (#44690613)

... well, they sure do now.

Stupid scenario (1)

joemck (809949) | about a year ago | (#44690693)

FTFA: "Stocco said years from now the technology could be used, for example, by someone on the ground to help a flight attendant or passenger land an airplane if the pilot becomes incapacitated."

Or, you know, use fly-by-wire. A normal computer-to-computer interface is sufficient here, and already exists and is in widespread use.

Re:Stupid scenario (2)

Spottywot (1910658) | about a year ago | (#44691213)

An example that is flawed for sure, what about a situation where someone needs emergency surgery and this could be performed by proxy by a willing bystander? There are definitely potential uses for a mature version of this technology, most of them are quite scary though. I do not like the idea of this being done to me. In reality though I think for all the 'save the day' scenarios in which this could be useful it would have to be a ubiquitous technology, now that's pretty damn unlikely even if it does mature so that would leave specialised applications. Any takers?

Pacific Rim (1)

SengirV (203400) | about a year ago | (#44690769)

One step closer...

Mwahahahahahaha

cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44690895)

now someone can think about me jacking off and I jack off?

Re:cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691111)

now someone can think about me jacking off and I jack off?

Is it working?

What's next? (1)

bulletman (254401) | about a year ago | (#44690909)

What's next, line dancing?

As with everything else on the internet... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#44691081)

...clearly, this has MAJOR applications for the porn industry.

Holy smokes.

Borg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691127)

Did nobody make a comment about the Borg yet? Are you guys real geeks? ;)

In Soviet Russia... (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#44691267)

...Computers hack into YOU!

FAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44691597)

fap fap fap

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