Researchers invent human mind control

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Mind control tech
Rajesh Rao (left) playing the video game with only his brain while Andra Stucco (right) involuntarily pushes the buttons that control the game!

Do you think mind control is something from the movies? Well, it’s kind of not. For example, earlier this year, Duke University researchers linked two rat brains and had them solve puzzles together… in different countries! A few months later, scientists from Harvard University connected the brain of a man and a rat to the point where he could control the animal’s tail with just his mind. Now, for the first time ever, researchers from the University of Washington (UW) have linked the brains of two humans together.

For this study, UW professor Rajesh Rao wore an electroencephalography (EEG) cap – basically a cap that can record his brain activity. In another room across campus, UW professor Andrea Stocco had a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil, which can stimulate brain activity, over the part of the brain responsible for movement. Rao sat in front of a computer game where he had to click a mouse to fire a cannon on screen. The only thing was, he wasn’t allowed to move his hand! Instead he had to imagine clicking the button. As he did so, the EEG machine recorded his brain activity and sent it to a computer, which then sent it across campus to Stocco sitting in front of the same game. The TMS machine on his head would stimulate his brain to make his hand click the mouse and fire the cannon. It was as if his finger was twitching involuntarily. To put in all in one super cool sentence, Rao controlled Stocco’s brain!

“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” said Stocco. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.” However, as Rao points out, there’s still a lot left to do before they can improve the technology. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his,” Rao said. “The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

This mind control tech wouldn’t be used to play games, however. Instead the researchers would like to develop a system in which people who can’t talk can communicate with others around them. With that said, I can easily see the mind control technology giving rise to epic brain battles!

Featured image courtesy of Aurimas Adomavicius on Flickr. Experiment image and video courtesy of University of Washington.