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In a major scientific advance, researchers at the University of Washington have established a ‘brain to brain communication’ link using the internet. The finding provides scientific evidence of the human brain being able to send a signal to another person, leading to a motor action – such as a hand moving. The possibilities of effectively treating cognitive disorders such as autism or making a paralysed person communicate with others have brightened after this breakthrough.
A team led by an Indian-origin Professor of Computer Science, Rajesh Rao, had taken up the path-breaking research in the University of Washington. PLoS One, a scientific journal, published the study recently.
The “brain-to-brain” connection was established between two persons sitting in different buildings of the university.
The signal from the sender’s brain, recorded using electroencephalography, was interpreted by a computer and transmitted over the Internet to a transcranial magnetic stimulation machine, which delivered a magnetic impulse to the receiver’s brain.
Could help paralysed communicate
In an e-mail interview, Professor Rao said the sender watched a computer game in which a pirate ship fired a rocket at a city and he had to fire a missile to save the city. The sender did not have access to a computer keyboard to hit the fire key. The receiver in another building of the University, rested his hand on another keyboard but could not see the screen on which the game was being played. The sender’s mental action of firing the rocket was recorded by the EEG and transmitted over the Internet, interpreted by the TMS machine and an impulse was delivered, leading to the twitching of the hand of the receiver, which hit the fire key.
“The work is still at a very early stage … In the future, such technology might allow novel diagnostic methods and new therapies for cognitive disorders such as autism or attention deficit disorder,” Dr Rao said, adding that beyond medical applications, future brain-to-brain technologies could pave the way for a “fundamentally new way for humans to communicate with each other.”
Asked when the research findings could be put to use, Dr Rao said it could take at least a few decades before this type of interface was used beyond laboratories. He is working in association with Andrea Stocco, a researcher at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington.
Dr Rao grew up in Hyderabad and did his schooling at the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kanchanbagh. His father, P.N.A.P. Rao, is a retired Avionics Director of the light combat aircraft project. His mother, Kamali Rao, is a retired Professor of English Language Teaching.
From : The Hindu