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Scientists send thoughts across the internet using brain-computer interface

Fri 29 Aug 2014

A group of scientists has successfully tested brain-to-brain transmission of messages over the internet.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) scanners, headsets which record electrical activity along the scalp, the team managed to transmit thoughts from a participant’s brain in India to the brain of a participant in France.

The technology works by encoding messages into binary form and directing them across the web, before using electrical stimulation techniques to implant them into the receiver’s brain. At the receiving end, the thoughts appear as flashes of light in the corner of the person’s vision which they are then able to decode. The first messages recorded and transmitted included short words such as ‘hola’ and ‘ciao.’

The technology was developed as part of a collaboration between the University of Barcelona, Axilum Robotics in France, Harvard Medical School, and Starlab Barcelona.

According to the report published by Plos One, an open-access scientific journal, this was the first time humans have directly communicated mind-to-mind.

The group of scientists has acknowledged the limited nature of the work so far; however they believe that “these initial results suggest new research directions, including […] the transmission of emotions and feelings.”

The research identifies pain, as well as depressive and obsessive-compulsive thoughts, as the most easily detected brain activity. Although the technology is still at a very nascent stage of development, the group hopes that it will represent an important advancement for the future of digital communication.

“We anticipate that computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely,” the group wrote, concluding its report.

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