A combined team of neuroscientists from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University have successfully demonstrated a device that connects participants’ brains, enabling them to share their thoughts and cooperate while playing a Tetris-style video game together.
This three-person brain network called ‘BrainNet’ works by combining electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). EEG records brain activity, while TMS works primarily to administer information to the brain in a non-invasive way.
For now, the interface allows only three participants to work together, but the team says it could be scaled up to connect as many participants as possible.
“We present BrainNet which, to our knowledge, is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving”, the team wrote in the paper. “The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication.”
In the study, three participants were asked to play a Tetris-like game which involved falling blocks. Of the three participants, two were “SENDERS”, and the other “RECEIVER”.
The “SENDERS” brain signals were interpreted using EEG to extract the decisions they made, that is – to rotate a block or not before it was dropped to fill a line. Their decisions were sent via the TMS cap to the “RECEIVER” who then made the judgement call.
The team furthermore demonstrated the scalability of the BrainNet by letting other five groups of three participants to perform the Tetris task. The accuracies were astounding.
“Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a “social network” of connected brains,” the team noted.