BrainNet – The first multi-person brain-to-brain “social network”

Over the years, we have become well acquainted with interfaces that allow us to communicate through text or speech. To that end, most of the new technological trends brought to improve communication are geared towards text or speech.

But recently, neuroscientists have come up with an interface that allows a group of people to communicate using only their brains. BrainNet, is the first multi-person interface for brain to brain collaboration. The interface uses electroencephalography (EEG) – an electrophysiological method, to record brain waves or the electrical activity of the brain and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to deliver information to the brain. Researchers at the University of Washington, presented a study where three participants were connected to EEGs, which recorded their brain activity. Two of the participants were labelled as “senders” and one was labelled a “receiver”.

The participants played a game that’s similar to Tetris, and the senders could see the whole game, but the receiver couldn’t, and had to play based on what the senders were communicating. The decoding process extracts each sender’s decision about whether to rotate a block in the Tetris-like game before it is dropped to fill a line. The senders’ decisions were transmitted via the Internet to the brain of the third subject, the receiver, who could not see the game screen. The receiver had to integrate the information received from the two senders and used the EEG interface to make a decision about either turning the block or keeping it in the same orientation.

Out of 16 trials, the receiver correctly rotated the block 13 times, indicating an 80% percent success rate. In their second trial, noise was artificially injected to throw off the process, but the participants quickly adjusted to this by integrating the noisy signals in order to make a correct decision.

Despite admitting that they are still in the early stages of development of this technology, the neuroscientists spearheading the development of it implied in “Scientific Reports”, an online open access scientific mega journal, that they are hopeful that BrainNet would soon become a way to communicate by simply directing your thoughts at someone.

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