Researchers from the University of Washington have created a method that allows three people to work together for solving a problem with the help of their minds. It brings telepathic communication one step closer to reality.
Three people play a game similar to Tetris with the help of a brain-to-brain interface. It demonstrates two things for the first time, a brain-to-brain network involving more than two people and a person able to send and receive information only with the help of their brains. The results of the study were published in the journal, Scientific Reports.
Rajesh Rao, a professor of Computer Science at the Paul G. Allen School of UW, and a co-director at the Center of Neurotechnology commented that human beings are social animals who are able to solve problems only with the help of others and not alone. Thus they wanted to know if people could collaborate with the help of only their brains. This led to the idea of Brain-Net in which two people helped a third person in solving a task.
In the game, similar to Tetris, there is a block at the top of the screen and a line which needs to be completed. Two people who are the Senders decide whether to rotate the block or not and send the information to the brain of the Receiver through the internet. The receiver processes the information, decides whether to accept the signal or not and then provides the command, to rotate or not rotate the block to the game directly from their brain.
Five groups of participants were asked to play the games in 16 rounds. For each group, the participants were unable to hear, see or speak to each other as they were in separate rooms. For the Senders, there were two options on the screen, Yes and No. Beneath each option, there were LEDs. Yes LED blinked 17 times a second whereas No LED blinked 15 times a second. If a receiver decided to rotate a block, then the corresponding signal was sent by concentrating on the respective light.
The electrical activity of the brains were picked by the electroencephalography caps which the Senders wore. The caps pick up the unique activity of the brain due to the distinct flashing pattern of the light. As per the selection of the Senders, the cursor on the screen pointed towards either Yes or No.
For delivering the message to the brain, researchers used a cable with a wand behind the head of the Receiver. It stimulated the part of the brain that translated the signals. If the answer was Yes, then Receiver saw a bright flash. They could then decide whether to accept the signal or not using the same technique. Scientists also flipped the responses in some cases of the Senders, due to which they formed a bias towards the better signal. With this, scientists have also started discussions on the ethics and privacy of the information of the people involved.