Brain-to-Brain Interfacing using Brain-Computer Interfaces and non-invasive Neuromodulation
Brain-to-brain interfacing (B2BI) is the combination of brain-computer interfacing (BCI) and neuromodulation technology to transmit neural information directly from one brain to another. In principle, one subject’s brain activity is recorded, transformed in some way, then used to activate parts of a second subject’s brain. In reality, the possibilities go much farther.
Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)
The BCI portion of a B2BI helps to decide the application of the system. Our lab is focused on the use of EEG to record brain activity, but even under the umbrella of EEG there are many different neurological signals to investigate. B2BI research has largely focused on two signals, steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEP) and motor-imagery (MI). These allow us to detect either what the user is focusing on visually or motor movements the user is imagining, respectively. The BCI lab at NC State is taking this further, looking to bring more nuanced signals from the brain into the field of B2BI, including pain-related evoked potentials (PREPs) and measures of mental workload.
Computer-Brain Interface (CBI)
The neuromodulation, or CBI, portion of a B2BI is critical in determining how the system will function. We are currently able to non-invasively stimulate user’s brains, causing neurons to fire based entirely off of computer control, thanks to state of the art stimulation technology. Our lab possesses two transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) devices and is working with the Mechanical Engineering department to help test transcranial focused ultrasound (TFUS), with both technologies being able to target and activate specific regions of the brain from safely outside the skull. Current B2BI literature focuses mostly on targeting subject’s motor cortex to create movement or visual cortex to produce flashes of light indicating a signal (from the other subject). We are looking once more to expand this area, using our TMS devices to create novel sensations for subjects that are exclusively associated with the B2BI, with the aim being to create new senses for participants and study how well the brain can accommodate the new information.
What it all looks like
When you put is all together, the B2BI systems we hope to develop and test in the BCI and Neuroergonomics Lab aim to aid in physical rehabilitation (through instructing the brain directly during physical therapy) and in sensory augmentation (by adding new senses to the brain that we never before thought possible). Through collaboration with multiple NC State departments, Duke university, and local NC disabilities groups, our lab is looking to take the fiction out of science fiction!