A team of scientists have successfully connected the brains of three people and enabled them to share their thoughts with each other via an interface they have dubbed BrainNet.
The researchers, from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University, recently published their findings and explained this fascinating process has to do with the combination of two existing technologies: electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
To put it simply, one brain's activity signals are recorded and then transferred non-invasively to another brain using stimulated neurons.
During their tests, the researchers hooked up three human subjects to the interface using electrodes on their scalps and tasked them with collaborating to solve a game similar to Tetris, with the goal of dropping blocks into empty spaces. The three people were allowed to communicate but only by using only their brains as to how the blocks should be rotated and dropped.
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So how did it all work?
One of the three people was given a specific role and became known as the Reciever. They were seated away from the other two (known as Senders) and was the only one of the three who could both send and receive data — the others could only send. The Reciever also couldn't see the game screen, and so they had to rely on the Senders, who were in full view of the screen, to issue them commands via the brain network as to how the blocks should be moved.
In order to issue their commands, the Senders would focus their attention on one of two LED lights on either side of the screen that flashed at different frequencies and subsequently modifying their brain signals. Depending on which light they looked at, the Senders used binary to tell the Reciever whether they should rotate the block or leave it alone.
Not only could the Reciever interpret these commands and move the blocks accordingly, but they could also tell if one of the Senders were trying to trick them. Researchers artificially injected noise into one of the Sender's signal and the Reciever was able to identify which of the two Senders was more reliable and interpret their information rather than the faulty transmission coming from the other.
In total, researchers found that five groups of three subjects each were able to successfully use BrainNet to complete the Tetris game. It is worth noting that this fascinating interface did require significant external intervention to achieve results. While this in no way means telepathy will become a reality, the findings are quite promising for what the future may hold in similar networking capabilities.
Right now, the system only transmits a brief flash of data at a time, and the process is fairly slow and unreliable, but the team of scientists believes their findings indicate the interface could see significant expansion. As explained in the study, "these results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans social a 'social network' of connected brains."
So who knows - perhaps one day we'll be able to use this so-called "social network" to collaborate with other people's brains from all over the world.
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