Brain cells can play with complex computer images

October 28th, 2010 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 28 (IANS) A handful of brain cells can play around with complex visual images on a computer screen, scientists have discovered.

The study found that when volunteers had their brains connected to a computer displaying two merged images, they could force the computer to display one of the images and discard the other.

The signals transmitted from each subject’s brain to the computer were derived from just a small number of brain cells, reports the Daily Mail, citing the study published in the journal Nature.

“The subjects were able to use their thoughts to override the images they saw on the computer screen,” said Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, who led the study.

The discovery comes as a boost for development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), devices that allow people to control computers or other devices with their thoughts.

BCIs have been hailed as the future for allowing people with locked-in syndrome to communicate or control prosthetic limbs using only their minds.

Past studies have shown how BCIs can be used perform simple tasks, such as controlling a computer cursor, with just a few brain cells.

This study, however, used BCI technology to understand how thoughts and decisions are shaped by a group of brain cells.

“This is a novel and elegant use of a brain-computer interface to explore how the brain directs attention and makes choices,” said Debra Babcock, a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US.

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