Two human brains have been connected via the Internet in an experiment which researchers compared to a Vulcan “mind meld” from the science fiction series Star Trek.
From his laboratory at the University of Washington, Prof Rajesh Rao claims he was able to control the hand movements of a colleague on the other side of campus using no more than the power of thought. A cap filled with electrodes picked up signals from Prof Rao’s brain and transmitted them via the Internet to a magnetic coil on Dr Andrea Stocco’s head.
As Prof Rao thought about tapping the space bar on his keyboard the coil stimulated Dr Stocco’s left motor cortex, the part of the brain which governs hand movement, and prompted him to carry out the action. Studies have linked mouse brains, and amputees use similar technology to move robotic limbs, but the experiment is thought to be the first connection between people.
Dr Stocco said: “The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it brain to brain.”
The team jokingly compared it to “mind melding” in Star Trek in which Mr Spock shares thoughts with others — although the Vulcan uses only his bare hands.
But they said the technology could allow a stroke victim to communicate with a carer, or could help avert disasters by allowing a pilot to land an airplane remotely.
The research was criticized, however, as a “publicity stunt” put online without peer review. A spokesman claimed “time was of the essence” in a race with other researchers.