Scientists at the University of Washington claim that they have transmitted a second impulse over the Internet from one researcher to another, allowing one to remotely stimulate the other’s hand simply by thinking. The university’s announcement Monday described a pilot study in which Rajesh Rao imagined moving his finger, sending an electrical signal across campus to his colleague Andrea Stocco, whose own finger moved in response.

According to the university, the two men, both wearing caps fitted with electrodes, used the system to collaborate to play a simple video game. Rao watched a screen that showed a cannon and a target. Stocco, in another building, had his hand on a keyboard that controlled the cannon.

The results of the experiment have not yet been published in a journal, but they would be the latest in a series of advances in brain-interface technology:

In February, for instance, scientists led by Duke University Medical Center’s Miguel Nicolelis used electronic sensors to capture the thoughts of a rat in a lab in Brazil and sent via Internet to the brain of a rat in the United States. The second rat received the thoughts of the first, mimicking its behavior. And electrical activity in the brain of a monkey at Duke, in North Carolina, was recently sent via the Internet, controlling a robot arm in Japan.


Other researchers suggested the field has progressed to the point where Rao and Stocco’s work is not very impressive. Duke’s Narcolelis told USA TODAY that a real accomplishment would be an interface that allows impulses to be communicated in two directions:

“What they did is kind of like using a phone signal to trigger a magnetic jolt to the brain. . . It’s not a true brain-to-brain interface where you would have communication of signals between people. This is one-way,” Nicolelis says. “So, I would say it is a little early to declare victory on creating a true human brain interface.”


For video of the experiment, see the univeristy’s announcement here.


See Tuesday’s news in photos from around the world in the gallery below.