The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently completed a study using brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) showing that it is possible to manipulate complex visual images on a computer screen by thought.
The researchers found that when study participants had their brains linked to a computer displaying two combined images, they could force the computer to display one of the images and remove the other. "The subjects were able to use their thoughts to override the images they saw on the computer screen," says University of California, Los Angeles professor Itzhak Fried.
In the study, BCI technology was used as a tool to understand how the brain processes information, and to understand how thoughts and decisions are shaped by the collective activity of single brain cells. "This is a novel and elegant use of a brain-computer interface to explore how the brain directs attention and makes choices," says NIH researcher Debra Babcock. "The remarkable aspects of this study are that we can concentrate our attention to make a choice by modulating so few brain cells and that we can learn to control those cells very quickly."
From National Institutes of Health
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