New research conducted by The University of Washington has revealed that people are able to work together and complete tasks using only their minds.
Per findings published by Nature, BrainNet is a Tetris-like game which features the first non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface, one that can be used for problem-solving by multiple people.
But just how does it work?
Each game of BrainNet consists of three players. Similar to Tetris, the game shows a block at the top of the screen, and a line at the bottom. Players must complete the bottom line by using their combined abilities. For the purposes of the experiment, five groups of participants played 16 rounds of the game.
Two participants, the “Senders,” can see the block and the line, but have no control over the actual game. The third person, the “Receiver,” can see only the block, but can tell the game where to place it in order to complete the line. The Senders are then responsible for passing that information — from their brains to the Receiver’s — through the internet.
Essentially, the game is displayed on a computer screen that only the Senders can see. The screen also shows the word “Yes” on one side, and “No” adjacently. LED lights are displayed beneath both options, which the Senders focus on to subsequently send information to the Receiver’s brain.
In order to pick up electrical activity in the brain, the Senders must wear special electroencephalography caps. By staring at the lights below their corresponding option, the cap is then able to pick up on signals while the computer displays a cursor on the screen, one that lines up with the participants’ desired choice. The information is then translated and sent to the Receiver via the internet.
To deliver the message to the Receiver, a cable is used, one which stimulates the part of the brain that translates signals from the eyes, according to research co-author Andrea Stocco.
“We essentially ‘trick’ the neurons in the back of the brain to spread around the message that they have received signals from the eyes. Then participants have the sensation that bright arcs or objects suddenly appear in front of their eyes.”
With BrainNet, the researchers have hopefully paved the way for future brain-to-brain interfaces, many of which might allow people to team up and use their combined assets to solve problems — problems that one brain couldn’t tackle on its own. Perhaps this is just a baby step towards something greater in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an impressive step nonetheless.