Can you build a mind-control helmet?

22 March 2009

Question

Is it possible to make some kind of helmet or head gear that could be used to read or influence brain activity – or maybe even if it got really good - get someone watching a film in their head just by stimulation coming at you from this helmet outside?

Answer

We put this to Demis Hassabis of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Demis - Well at the moment we're very far away from that kind of technology. So far All the technology that is being used in neuroscience at the moment is passively reading the electrical activity the brain is creating itself, rather than actually influencing it the other way. I do know of some rather experimental studies that have been done trying to connect chip board to rat brains and trying to control the way they navigate. As far as I know those are very experimental at the moment. Nothing's really practical that's come out of that yet. Chris - I believe there was a researcher in Europe who showed if you supply or apply an intense magnetic field to the head while they are learning things it helps them remember them better. He was doing this with word learning. He was doing this with students to sleep with a magnetic field round their head. I think it improved their ability to learn, probably because the brain's an electromagnetic organ.

Demis - There may be ways. You could do it neuro-chemically as well with some drugs. There are probably ways of changing and up-regulating entire systems in the brain but that's very different from influencing a specific thought or getting them to specifically think about a key episode, as well.

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