Vulcan Mind Meld Becomes a Reality, Sort Of

Dennis Faas's picture

A University of Washington scientist has transmitted his own thoughts over the Internet in order to make another man's finger move. But he insists this breakthrough isn't quite Star Trek-style Vulcan mind control.

The project is designed to explore the way the brain operates with electrical signals. (Source:

Professor Rajesh Rao wore a special cap that monitors the electrical signals, or brainwaves, in the skull. Although he didn't physically move, he imagined moving his finger.

To make the thought "more powerful", he did so while looking at a computer screen showing a video game in which -- were he physically playing it -- he would have had to move his finger to fire a virtual rocket.

Magnetic Coil Induces Finger Movement

The signals were then sent over an Internet connection to another campus building where researcher Andrea Stocco was also wearing a special cap and holding his hand over a keyboard. Rather than record signals, his cap contained a magnetic coil used to stimulate the brain.

Once the cap received the signals, it emitted a gentle current to the part of the brain that controls muscles in the hand. This current was so specifically targeted that it reportedly caused Stocco's finger to move and press a key on his computer. Stocco reported that the movement was completely involuntary and likened it to experiencing a nervous tic.

The test was repeated about two dozen times over the course of four sessions. Stocco responded to the stimulus 90 per cent of the time.

Technology Only Works On Willing Subjects

According to the researchers, there's no danger of this technology being abused.

First, the hardware requirements mean it couldn't be used without somebody's knowledge.

Second, although the induced movement itself is involuntary, it's almost certain the process will only work if the person receiving the signal is mentally "open" to the process.

It's the first time such a test has been carried out between two humans. Previous tests have been run between humans and rats, the latter of which have a similar but simpler brain structure.

The researchers believe the study could eventually lead to more complicated information being transferred between people without the need for using words.

In particular, they think this could be used for teaching complicated motor skills that are difficult to explain in a verbal way. (Source:

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