To make it work, the research team combined two kinds of non-invasive instruments. One participant (the “sender”) was hooked-up to an electroencephalography machine, which recorded brain signals and sent electrical pulses through the Web to the second participant (the “receiver”) who was wearing a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil placed near the part of the brain that controls hand movements.
During the experiment, the sender issued a command to move the hand of the receiver by simply thinking about that hand movement. Three different pairs of participants were used for the experiment, each confronted with different roles and constraints. The volunteers worked in separate buildings about a half-mile apart, and they were unable to interact or communicate with each other in any way. Well, except for that mind-to-mind interface strapped to their heads.
Shall We Play A Game — With Our Thoughts?
Now here comes the fun part. The senders were tasked with playing a computer game in which he or she had to defend a city by firing a cannon and intercepting rockets launched by a pirate ship. But the senders weren’t given any kind of controller or joystick — the only way they could defend the city was by thinking about moving their hand to fire the cannon.
In the other building across campus, the receivers meanwhile sat wearing headphones in a dark room with no ability to see the computer game. Their right hand was positioned over a touchpad that could actually fire the cannon. If the interface was successful, the receiver’s hand would twitch, firing the cannon displayed on the sender’s computer screen.
Results showed that the accuracy varied among the pairs, ranging from 25% to 83%. Misses were mostly on account of the senders failing to execute the “fire” command with their thoughts.
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