Human Non-Invasive Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication for Group Problem-Solving

BrainNet is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem-solving.

The interface combines electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain signals and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver information noninvasively to the brain. The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication. Two of the three subjects are designated as “Senders” whose brain signals are decoded using real-time EEG data analysis. The decoding process extracts each Sender’s decision about whether to rotate a block in a Tetris-like game before it is dropped to fill a line. The Senders’ decisions are transmitted via the Internet to the brain of a third subject, the “Receiver,” who cannot see the game screen. The Senders’ decisions are delivered to the Receiver’s brain via magnetic stimulation of the occipital cortex. The Receiver integrates the information received from the two Senders and uses an EEG interface to make a decision about either turning the block or keeping it in the same orientation. A second round of the game provides an additional chance for the Senders to evaluate the Receiver’s decision and send feedback to the Receiver’s brain, and for the Receiver to rectify a possible incorrect decision made in the first round.

They evaluated the performance of BrainNet in terms of
(1) Group-level performance during the game,
(2) True/False positive rates of subjects’ decisions, and
(3) Mutual information between subjects. Five groups, each with three human subjects, successfully used BrainNet to perform the collaborative task, with an average accuracy of 81.25%.

They varied the information reliability of the Senders by artificially injecting noise into one Sender’s signal. They investigated how the Receiver learns to integrate noisy signals in order to make a correct decision. Like conventional social networks, BrainNet allows Receivers to learn to trust the Sender who is more reliable, in this case, based solely on the information transmitted directly to their brains. The results point the way to future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a “social network” of connected brains.

Direct brain-to-brain interfaces (BBIs) in humans are interfaces that combine neuroimaging and neurostimulation methods to extract and deliver information between brains, allowing direct brain-to-brain communication. A BBI extracts specific content from the neural signals of a “Sender” brain, digitizes it, and delivers it to a “Receiver” brain. Because of ethical and safety considerations, existing human BBIs rely on non-invasive technologies, typically electroencephalography (EEG), to record neural activity and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver information to the brain.

Stocco and colleagues extended these results by showing that a Sender and a Receiver can iteratively exchange information using a BBI to identify an unknown object from a list, using a question-and-answer paradigm akin to “20 Questions.” Grau and colleagues proposed a related but offline non-iterative BBIs.

BrainNet improves Brain-to-brain interfaces (BBIs) in three ways:
(1) BrainNet expands the scale of BBIs to multiple human subjects working collaboratively to solve a task.
(2) BrainNet is the first BBI to combine brain recording (EEG) and brain stimulation (TMS) in a single human subject, eliminating the need to use any physical movements to convey information. With more hardware, the system can be scaled to the case where every subject can both send and receive information using the brain interface.
(3) Using only the information delivered by BrainNet, Receivers are able to learn the reliability of information conveyed to their brains by other subjects and choose the more reliable sender. This makes the information exchange mediated by BrainNet similar to real-life social communication, bringing us a step closer to a “social network of brains.”

BrainNet could be improved in several ways:
(1) From the first human BBI to BrainNet, the level of information complexity has remained binary, i.e., only a bit of information is transmitted during each iteration of communication. Additionally, this low bit rate required a disproportionate amount of technical hardware and setup. To address the limitation of low bit rate, they are currently exploring the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to increase the bandwidth of human BBIs. Other approaches worth exploring include combining EEG and fMRI to achieve both high spatial and temporal resolution for decoding, and using TMS to stimulate higher-order cortical areas to deliver more complex information such as semantic concepts.

Nextbigfuture notes that there is low-cost high-resolution red-light based brain interfaces and high-resolution MRI-like scanning coming from OpenWater.

Openwater is creating an portable MRI-like devices that will be 1000 times cheaper with 1 million times the resolution. Leapfrog light and hologram based MRI technology will scan the brain or body bit by bit or voxel by voxel. This light-based system will not only be vastly smaller and cheaper than existing magnetic MRI, it will also have vastly higher resolution.

(2) BrainNet purposefully introduced a “bad” sender in BrainNet design to study whether the Receiver can learn which Sender is more reliable. It would be interesting to investigate whether the Receiver can learn the reliability of Senders in more natural scenarios where the unreliability originates from the noisy nature of a Sender’s brain recordings or from a Sender’s lack of knowledge, diminished attention, or even malicious intent.

(3) BrainNet uses a typical server-client TCP protocol to transmit information between computers. The server is solely designed for BrainNet’s experimental task and is not a general-purpose server. A cloud-based BBI server could direct information transmission between any set of devices on the BBI network and make it globally operable through the Internet, thereby allowing cloud-based interactions between brains on a global scale.

Inception-like Real Life With High-Resolution Interfaces or Temporary Hive-Minding with Global Scale Brain Clouds

SOURCES- Nature Scientific Reports
Written By Brian Wang,

19 thoughts on “Human Non-Invasive Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication for Group Problem-Solving”

  1. Yes, Silicon valley is another example of the concentration of geniuses (combined with the brilliant people who aren’t quite genius, and the very smart, and the smart, to back them up and do all the backup work).

    However, as we see from most historical examples, the centres of brilliance don’t last. Whether this consists of ossification, or corruption, or attracting parasites, or whatever, is a different question (and one I suspect we don’t have enough data to answer beyond mouthing our favoured political prejudices.)

    So at some point, maybe soon, maybe now, SV is going to grind to a halt and it may be better to try to establish somewhere new without the legacies and built up problems (whatever they may be).

    Anyway, it is by no means clear that 2019 SV is in any way different, politically, from the rest of California. They seem to support much the same politics so attempting to “protect them” would be doomed.

  2. Best hive mind is made exchanging written words. Everyone can learn
    at his own speed, read again something not clear, and ponder it as long as he likes,alone. We all know that the only time when we really
    do some learning is with book, pen and paper.

  3. At that point in time though, what goals would the overmind pursue? It would do a very good job of engineering its own survival and probably study advanced physics, but other than that there’d be nothing left but entertainment.

    If it maintains a cultural value of social interaction, stories, and other things that require a cast of characters, I expect we’d go back to having individuals again just as a form of recreation. Each individual might be a parallel instance of a unit in the hive mind, budded off to have some fun and return later.

  4. So what you’re saying is, we should offer subsidized rent and a relocation stipend to anyone with a 140+ IQ who wants to move to Silicon Valley?

    Yes. Agreed. But we also need some way to protect the region from the California government.

  5. Of course the multiple network thing is worrisome, too. Cultures differentiate themselves, more than anything else, by their cultural values (not by dances, or special foods, etc.). This sometimes confuses people because certain religions are actually separate cultures, in that their cultural values are determined by religious zealotry.

    In any case, cultures behave similarly to some single-celled organisms when they encounter each other and are forced to remain in relative proximity. This is to say, they swap “DNA” via processes akin to transformation, conjugation, and transduction, until both are effectively the same, or else they merge completely and become a hybrid organism, or one absorbs the other, or one just destroys the other outright, it’s even possible they could destroy each other.

    So, eventually, without lots of room to get away from each other, you are still only going to have one hivemind (or none and, in that case, probably no more unattached people either).

    There’s still some reason for hope, though. If individuals are permitted to exist at all within the network, then one can imagine an analogy between them and the cells in a multi-cellular organism’s body. Though we have many billions of cells in our bodies, we don’t attempt to control them all individually, nor to make them all the same, nor to swap DNA with everyone we meet (well, not most of us).

    Kind of puts reminds me of the ending of William Gibson’s sequel to Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive.

  6. Some years ago I put together an attempt at a timeline of change caused by scientific advancement over the coming century (just keep reminding yourself: it’s only a game).

    The last fifty years are a bit sketchy, of course, but this article put me in mind of my “predictions” for the last twenty years of this century.

    Man-Machine Interfaces Part 6 People routinely have multi-threaded minds. Effectively, they can be in many places at the same time, and do many different activities at once. Accidental death is nearly impossible.

    Man-Machine Interfaces Part 7: Minor godhood. A person can now have multiple instances of themselves all running at once and tied into one another. In effect, they are multi-threaded. They could also be thought of as a weak form of hive mind.

    Space Travel Part 2: Extra-Solar diaspora accelerates, driven primarily by individuals that already foresee the next advance in Man-Machine Interfaces.

    Man-Machine Interfaces Part 8: Ascendance of the overmind. Nearly all of mainstream “humanity” becomes networked (although, hopefully, a strong level of individuality is maintained). Alternatively, there could be multiple networks with differing cultural values.

  7. Einstein once said something to the effect that he wasn’t so smart, he just thought about certain things longer than most people.

    Now imagine if he’d been smart.

  8. Yes, but it’s transmitted via the Internet! The participants can literally sit on opposite sides of the world and still communicate!

  9. I think you are off by a factor of thousand assuming lowly 1mbps video stream. This is probably close to 1semi-reliable bit per second.

  10. On the contrary, most of the outpourings of genius happen when small groups of brilliant [men] find themselves working and living in a single location.

    3 of the nuclear scientists that revolutionized physics in the early 20th century went to the same high school. Heaps of them all came from Budapest.

    The geniuses of the Renaissance all hung out together in Florence. Half the legends of Classical Greek thought knew eachother and worked together. Likewise ancient China.

    Einstein himself did his original breakthrough work while doing his PhD at the university of Zurich. Hardly disconnected from the hive mind of physics even if he was earning a crust at the patent office at the time.

  11. Do our super genius Borg lovers ever wonder if isolation from the “hive mind” is one of the necessary precursors for genius? I mean Albert Einstein was disconnected and not being corrected by the physics hive mind when he was working in the Bern patent office.

  12. Transmission rate isn’t high enough to be barely useful. It would be more useful to use our current senses as input. For output, we can use some sort of high resolution sensors. I figure you have to at least be able to send the firing of certain individual nerve cells.

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