First brain-to-brain communication in humans

Brain signals transmit a message via the Internet to the brain of a recipient

Messages from brain to brain - a first step has now been achieved. © freeimages / MMCD
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Transmission of thoughts via the Internet: Researchers have for the first time transmitted brain signals from one person to another - non-invasively and over thousands of kilometers. The digitally encoded brainwaves of the "sender" conveyed concrete messages to the "recipient": the words "Hola" and "Ciao". This proves that this form of brain-computer-brain communication is possible in principle, according to the researchers in the journal "PLOS ONE".

In March 2013, a study by US researchers caused a stir. Because they had recorded the brain signals of a rat and fed via the Internet and implanted electrodes into the brain of a second rat. In this way, they transmitted a concrete behavioral statement from one animal to another.

From the brain to the computer ...

The fact that human brain signals can transmit meaningful instructions and content to a computer is demonstrated by experiments in which subjects control a plane remotely, direct a car or a helicopter with thought control. So far, however, it remained at such human-machine interfaces, the step to transfer the signals recorded by the computer to another person, was missing.

Carles Grau from Starlab Barcelona and his colleagues have now made up for it. The "send" part of their experiment took place in the Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram. Here, the brain waves of a subject were derived using an electrode cap and digitally coded by computer. The message to be conveyed, the word "hola" or "ciao", was broken down into a series of zeros and ones for the purpose of the experiment. The subject turned them into brainwaves by raising his foot in spirit for every zero and his hand for each one.

Scheme of brain-to-brain communication in the experiment. Et Grau et al. / PLOS ONE, doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0105225.g001

..and via the Internet to the receiver brain

The brain signals generated in this way were now sent via the Internet to the "recipient" laboratory in the French town of Stra burg. There, they were transferred to the brain of a recipient by trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). In this case, a magnetic coil is applied to the skull of the subject, which can influence the brain's energy by magnetic pulses. display

To exclude all other influences, the subject wore an eye mask, soundproof headphones and sat alone in the test room. Depending on the orientation, the TMS pulses in front of the subject's inner eye triggered flashes of light - corresponding to a one in the binary code - or a lightning-free diffuse sensation the zero.

First step to a new communication?

As it turned out, all three recipient subjects in almost all cases managed to decode by brain the "sender" and decode messages fed into their own brain correctly. The error rate was in other similar tests at only 15 percent, as the researchers report. "This experiment shows that brain-to-brain communication in humans is possible, " say the researchers. The messages were transmitted without speaking or writing in the game.

"This represents an important step in human communication, " says co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard Medical School in Boston. The experiment is an important demonstration of the feasibility of such neuronal-based communications. "We expect computers in the not-too-distant future to interact even more fluidly directly with the human brain - and that both brain-computer and brain-to-brain communication will become routine, " the researchers state. Her attempt is not much more than a first, even primitive approach. (PLoS ONE, 2014; doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0105225)

(Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 04.09.2014 - NPO)