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Bridging brains

Language may limit us, but a groundbreaking technology developed by researchers at the UW means communicating basic commands from one human brain to another is a new reality.

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Thanks to UW professor of computer science and engineering Rajesh Rao, who serves as the lead author on the team’s latest study, “great minds think alike” is no longer just a phrase, but a fact.

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Rajesh Rao

Rajesh Rao

Andrea Stocco

Andrea Stocco

Chantel Prat

Chantel Prat

The noninvasive technology — which currently allows one person’s brain to control another person’s hand motions from miles away via transmissions sent over the Internet — is rapidly changing the field.

Next up? Putting a $1 million W.M. Keck Foundation grant toward further developing brain-to-brain technology to one day transmit complex ideas and thoughts.

“The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology,” said co-author Andrea Stocco, assistant professor of psychology and researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

The project could also eventually lead to “brain tutoring,” in which knowledge is transferred directly from the brain of a teacher to a student.

Imagine someone who’s a brilliant scientist but not a brilliant teacher. Complex knowledge is hard to explain
– we’re limited by language.

– Co-author Chantel Prat, assistant professor of psychology and researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

Video: The UW profiles the research study