I can’t read your mind. But I might be able to control it. Mawhahahahaha!

In a study published this week in PLOS ONE, researchers at the University of Washington detail how they were able to transmit the brain signals from one person to another and, within a split second, control the hand of the second person.

The researchers think that so-called Internet telepathy could lead to “brain tutoring,” in which knowledge is transferred from the brain of a teacher to the brain of a student.

Internet Telepathy? Thoughts Transmitted Online

“Imagine someone who’s a brilliant scientist but not a brilliant teacher. Complex knowledge is hard to explain — we’re limited by language,” Chantel Prat, an assistant professor of psychology at UW said in a press release.

Prat co-authored the study along with Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

Prat and Stocco conducted their Internet telepathy study using three pairs of participants. In each pair, one person — dubbed the sender — was hooked up to an electroencephalography machine designed to read brain activity. The sender played a video game in which he or she had to defend a city by firing a cannon. But the sender could only interact with the game mentally, not physically. No joy sticks here.

In a separate building about a half mile away, the other half of the pair — the receiver — donned a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed near the part of the brain that controlled hand movements. They waited with their hand poised over a touchpad.

When the sender imagined firing a cannon, the electrical brain signal was sent via the Web to the second participant, who received the signal as a hand twitch that fired the cannon.

Accuracy varied among the pairs, from from 25 to 83 percent.

The team hopes to improve upon their initial results thanks to a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. With these funds, they’ll attempt to decode and transmit more complex brain processes and expand upon the types of information that can be transferred, including more complex visual and psychological phenomena such as concepts, thoughts and rules.

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Back in September, a team in India performed a related Internet telepathy experiment, in which one person sent the other a kind of Morse code signal that, when decoded, represented a word or phrase.

The ability to send messages or actions by thought to another person could help someone overcome the learning curve of some new skill set. But obviously, the idea of transmitting thoughts or actions into another person’s brain has some scary, sci-fi implications — or at least the potential for a great Hollywood action thriller.

Caption: Darby Losey (left) imagines firing a cannon in a computer game. His thoughts are sent over the Web to the brain of Jose Ceballos, whose hand hits a touchpad to fire the cannon. Credit: Mary Levin, University of Washington


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