Boy Controls Video Game Via Direct Brain Link

An epilepsy patient at Washington University masters Space Invaders on mind power alone.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

October 21, 2006

1 Min Read

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have wired the brain of an epilepsy sufferer to a laptop computer, allowing the patient, a 14-year-old boy, to play video games with his thought patterns.

I think, therefore I win

A grid of wires surgically attached to the boy's brain detects electrical signals, or electrocorticographic activity, generated by his thoughts. The grid is connected externally to a computer running an application developed at the New York State Department of Health that converts brain signals into instructions understood by the video game, in this case, Space Invaders. The boy can control and fire the game's space cannon by, for example, thinking about moving his tongue or his hand.

The boy completed the game's first level using the system, says Dr. Eric Leuthardt, an assistant professor of neurological surgery at the university's school of medicine. The research could have profound implications for the disabled, he says. "There's no reason someone couldn't be taught to manipulate the Windows operating system using this method," Leuthardt says. "Once they've gained that control, they could be a productive worker in an office environment."

Technology connecting the brains of disabled office workers to computers is about five to 10 years away, Leuthardt says. "There are still reliability and safety factors to be worked out," he says, noting that long-term use of the system could lead to scarring of brain tissue.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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