Imagine being able to control a computer with your mind!
No longer would we be tied down to keyboards, mice and touchscreens!
We need NEVER put down our coffee to work!
It’s not fantasy, that just happened.
Twelve subjects sat in front of a computer and looked at two superimposed images on a screen, focusing their mind on one of the pictures. The computer responded by making the image stronger while fading the other image away until only one was visible. They picked the image they wanted to look at, and made it so!
All the subjects had epilepsy, and had fine wires inside their brains to monitor seizures. These wires were attached to neurons and connected to the computer. Now not everyone has wires in their brain… YET. But to be honest I would consider it.
The images were picked during a screening process earlier that morning, which selected pairs that activated very different neurons. Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson were two famous faces used as pictures in the experiment. The Marilyn Monroe image might make some neurons fire faster, while the Michael Jackson image would make others fire. The pairs were used several times during the tests, half the time one picture was the target (ie. Marilyn) and the rest of the time, the other (Jackson.)
To quote the letter, published in Nature “The subject was instructed to enhance the target image from the hybrid image on the screen by ‘continuously thinking of the concept represented by that image.'” The concept? Like Marilyn Monroe and sex? Maybe. All the images were ones that would be familiar to the subjects, though I would like to know if you can choose between two completely new pictures.
Success rate (making the target picture take up the whole screen) was about 70%. Not bad… not great, but not bad.
This new research could shed light on how information is used in the brain, and how interactions between single brain cells let us make decisions. I personally hope this is the one of many steps towards real mind-control in the computer realm. Come on science, I’m sick of typing! Give me my mind mouse!
Here is the research paper. FYI, it was a bitch to read! Very confusing.
Cerf, M., Thiruvengadam, N., Mormann, F., Kraskov, A., Quiroga, R., Koch, C., & Fried, I. (2010). On-line, voluntary control of human temporal lobe neurons Nature, 467 (7319), 1104-1108 DOI: 10.1038/nature09510