National Geographic News
MRI of brain and spine (Digital Enhancement)

A magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the human brain and spine.

Photograph by Derek Berwin, Getty Images

Brian Handwerk

for National Geographic

Published August 29, 2013

Scientists achieved the first remote human-to-human brain interface this week, when Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal over the Internet that moved the hand of colleague Andrea Stocco—even though Stocco was sitting all the way across the University of Washington's campus.

Using one human brain to direct another person's body via the Internet was an amazing breakthrough. But other feats of mind control are already realities, particularly in the realm of human machine interfaces (HMIs).

Here are some amazing examples of what our brains can already do.

Compose and Play Music

Yes, music composition always took place in the brain. But now musicians might be able to eliminate the need for tools and interfaces like sheet music—or even playing an instrument—by simply creating music directly with their thoughts.

Electroencephalography (EEG) headwear devices record the electric signals that are produced when the brain is at work and can connect them wirelessly to a computer. Their wearers can also train their minds to associate a set of EEG brain signals with a specific task.

For example, thinking about pushing a button on the computer screen produces a brainwave pattern that computer software can then recognize and associate with that task.

To make music, such thoughts are associated with notes or sounds to create a language of musical thought that's produced directly from the brain. With this established, users can simply think musical scores to life and play them via the computer.

For an example of the way the mind can create music and other forms of art, check out the MiND ensemble (Music in Neural Dimensions) from the University of Michigan.

Screen Mobile Phone Calls

Like a tough personal secretary, Ruggero Scorcioni's Good Times app filters the incoming calls of busy mobile phone users by simply monitoring the state of the user's brain.

Earlier this year, Scorcioni won an AT&T Mobile App Hackathon with the iOS app, which uses the cuddly Necomimi Cat Ears brainwave-reading headset to monitor brain activity and reroute calls to voicemail when it perceives that the user's brain is busy with other tasks. If the user's brain is in a receptive state, it lets the call through.

With $30,000 in Hackathon prize money in hand, Scorcioni is fine-tuning his prototype, which he views as a first step in the way our brain states might directly control mobile devices and our individual environments. Someday it might enable more brain-driven mobile device features that require no user input, like his Good Tunes concept, which would read brainwaves and then play music best matching the wearer's personal preferences for their current brain state.

Create a 3-D Object

Can wishing for something make it so? Well, not quite. But a Chilean company has announced the first object to be created by thought alone—paired with the growing power of the latest 3-D printing machines.

George Laskowsky, the chief technical officer of the Santiago-based startup Thinker Thing, created the first-ever such object in January 2012.

The Thinker Thing system employs an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset to map its wearer's brainwaves. Then the company's own software, called Emotional Evolutionary Design, displays "building block" shapes on a computer screen.

From a basic beginning, the shapes change and "evolve," while the user's emotional positive and negative reactions to each change are monitored by the headset. As the software processes brain feedback, the well-received shapes and changes are kept and expanded, while the disliked ones fade away. The process is repeated until a final object is produced according to the thought preferences of the designer.

The company's Monster Dreamer project gave schoolkids the opportunity to use the software to create the monster of their dreams, or nightmares, in a matter of minutes.

Drive a Wheelchair—And a Car

For the disabled, the ability to move about using the power of their minds could be life changing. To that end, scientists have worked for years on wheelchairs and other devices that could restore mobility to those who had lost control of their own bodies but still had sharp minds.

By 2009, Japanese scientists at Toyota and research lab RIKEN announced a thought-controlled wheelchair that used an EEG sensor cap to capture brainwaves and turn them into directional commands in just 125 thousandths of a second—with 95 percent accuracy.

At Lausanne, Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology, scientists have added "shared control" to the concept. Their chair's software analyzes the surrounding area's cluttered environment and blends that information with the driver's brain commands to avoid problems like collisions with objects.

The system also eases the strain of command because users needn't continually instruct the chair—the software processes a single directional command and automatically repeats it as often as needed to navigate the space.

German engineers at the Free University of Berlin have attempted to take this concept on the open road with a car that can be partially controlled by the driver's thoughts. The team took an autonomous Volkswagen Passat, one of the emerging breed of driverless vehicles, and outfitted it with a computer system and software designed to work with Emotiv's commercially available EEG brain-scanning headset.

Drivers were trained to produce recognizable thought commands, like "turn left," by manipulating a virtual cube on a screen. The onboard computer then analyzed and converted those thoughts to commands recognized by the car itself each time they were thought by the driver. (See the successful results here.)

The "BrainDriver" application is not roadworthy yet, the team cautions on their website. "But on the long run, human machine interfaces like this could bear huge potential in combination with autonomous driving--for example, when it comes to decide which way you want to take on a crossroad, while the autonomous cab drives you home."

"Bionic" Limbs

In some instances, human machine interfaces are becoming part of the human body. One new prosthetic even provides a sense of "touch" like that of a natural arm, because it interfaces with the wearer's neural system by splicing to residual nerves in the partial limb.

The prosthetic sends sensory signals to the wearer's brain that produce a lifelike "feel," allowing users to operate it by touch rather than by sight alone. This ability enables tasks many take for granted, like removing something from inside a grocery bag, and knowing how hard to grip items with the prosthetic hand.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University, now working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), developed the prosthetic, which can be seen in action here and was unveiled in May 2013. DARPA is a leader in the development of advanced prosthetics, in part because more than 2,000 U.S. Service members have undergone amputations since 2000.

Another DARPA-backed prosthetic arm flips this script by efficiently transmitting information from brain to arm, rather than vice versa, through a technique called targeted muscle re-innervation. The procedure rewires nerves from amputated limbs to enable more natural brain control of the prosthetic—and make possible some amazing abilities.

In this video taken at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, former Army Staff Sgt. Glen Lehman, who was wounded in Iraq, demonstrates his ability to manipulate the arm with his mind, drink coffee, and bounce a tennis ball with a prosthetic limb. In some cases, experts say, prosthetics can already offer more functionality than heavily damaged human limbs.

50 comments
L  Johnson
L Johnson

This article is informative but fails to shed light on the fact that this technology is already being used on much broader scale that what is indicated in this article. And not just for the good things mentioned here but for mass mind control of unsuspecting citizens. The information is good but incomplete and only tells the delusions of grandeur possibilities not the gruesome realities of millions of people who have vocalized being tortured with this technology and used like ginea pigs against their will in this country. If you don't believe me then check it out. there are millions of people in this country who are victims of this technology already and have been for years. 


Cheryl Currie
Cheryl Currie

The future can easily be imagined after reading this article.

jayla p.
jayla p.

The Bionic limbs is a good one but other companies might produce something that will push people to "laziness," instead of convenience. 


And here we are fighting diabetes for lack of physical activity. 


First thing that came to mind, "Wall-E" 

Larry Cox
Larry Cox

This is kooky, because "mind control" has a long-accepted meaning, and it's NOT the mind controlling machines, but machines controlling our minds.


On top of this, this concept is corny because every time you do anything with your body you are using your mind (not just your brain!) to control a machine (your body.)


So researchers are finding ways to make the link to other machines more direct. So what? The best way to do that is to learn psychokinesis which is not easy to learn, but definitely more effective and efficient than all those electronics gadgets.

Scarlett Shell
Scarlett Shell

I'm not going to lie this sounds like it would benefit a lot of people. The only thing that worries me is the bad that people could also do with it.

C ODonnell
C ODonnell

Coming soon: Monsters from the Id ala Forbidden Planet.

Kristi D.
Kristi D.

Holy ___. This is all too much to even grasp. I don't know what is to become of people in the future. It all sounds good, until it's in the wrong hands.

Sam Felix
Sam Felix

This product will most certainly be useful for the disabled. 

Kantapong Poolsombat
Kantapong Poolsombat

Very useful for the disabled ones as well as everybody in their everyday's life. Thank to scientists for their non-stop efforts to benefit mankind.

C.k. Cheung
C.k. Cheung

Worlds Citizens of Addressings Advancings NEUROSCIENCES Radiating Technologies Impacts of Humans PHYSICAL and MENTAL HEALTH. "Hong Kong Justice And Microwave Beam Radiation" VERY EXTRAORDINARY PHENOMENON and ALL COMPASS IN HK DISORIE-NTED(Abnormal EMR Power Effects)in Urgent Appeal Petition to WHO & UN on 'Google/Yahoo'. It is confirmed HKSAR in Perpetuals Exercisings in of Advancing BrainSignals Interfaces Transmittings Technologies of BIO-NEURO-PHYSIO Effects(US Patent: 4877027; 5800481; 6011991; 6167304; 6488617; ........)via giant Microwave Antenna array and in of X-HI Radiation dspersings with HK Observatory recorded lowest 1.3 Gy/Hr(65 folds Over the Radiation Absorbtion Limit for Human Per Year)and coupling Satellite Surveillances over individuals and populations in anywhere effectings DEEP Populations LIVELIHOODS, SAFETIES and HEALTH with of the BIO-ECOLOGICAL Impacts of  the City  AND  the NEUROTransmittings Effects of anywhere from HK Effectings others regions in Pan Asia Pacific and far to Europes and N. America.  The proof of the HK materials Research unraveled(Apr.4,2013) ALL  CHILDREN born in HK does SELF-ADMINISTRATING Abilities essential DECREAS-INGS("Neuros-Associative Disorders"), other HK  Research(Apr.24,2013) indicated HK CHILDREN in High Trend of NARCISSIT(Self Love Psycho), EYE-HEALTH-SIGHT damagings of small children/teens("Ultrastructural Changes in Rabbit Lens Induced by Microwave Radiation", HK Health Official Survey(Jun.23,13)confirmed Special Alert Over HK CHILDREN OBESITY Critically Housing in Abnormal High 20%-----"High Power EMF Effects", HK Public Panel Survey(May,28,13)warrants the Unusual Suicidal Spate of young child(youngest at 8 years old)and youngs-----"NeuroChem-Mental Effects", The HK News Report(Apr.11,2013)reass-erted HK YOUNGS AGES acquired Brain Diseases PARKINSONS in High Risings----"Neuro-Brain Degenerative Diseases",  of  HK News Report(Jun.18,2013) Assured ALARMING Increases of HK New born Babies with the Inborne GENS DEFECTS devoted to CONGENITAL METABOLISM DEFICIENCY in with Enzymes Deficits consequented to organs failures & Brain Develop-ment Impairments-----"High Strengths EMR Effects", The Compulsives High Promotions CANCEROUS DISEASES(HK News Report on May,15, 2013 Affirmed 50% Increasings of BREAST CANCER in HK Women, and on Aug.13,2013 indicated 450% INCREASINGS of NEURO-ENDOCRINE TUMOUR Incidences in HK---"High Energy EMR Effects of Melatonin"), the Techno-Neural-Transmitting & Bio-Physics Abnormalities EFFECTS over PUBLICS Domain with HK News Report on Aug.24,2013 showed 50% of ALL HK PUPILS with the Mental-ILL symptoms of ANXIETIES, Yet Forthcomings Hospitals and professionals erroneous as with the verified Surgeon Doctors(on May, 22,2013)unveiled self-unwittings COGNITIVE impairings of BIG FAULT with Wrong-Heart-Blood-Type Transplanted Operative, and(on Aug.19,13 )an hk university Cardiology Expert Doctors had been suspended from the Licensing Surgeons as causes("Brain-EEGs Wave Effects"), again (on May,28,2013)Nurses susceptibilities to EMR Hypersensitivities in disconnectings Oxygen Devices causings Patient Collapsed, a HK patient(on Sept.6,2013)with Artificial Respiratory Airway DIED of it blocked by Tissues, other patient DIED as it blocked by Gauze in other Hospitals of HK , Financials Markets professions in with Publicsed Unprofessionals MISTAKENS Transactions on Aug.16&19 sequals, PREMATURE AGING syndromes of HEALTHY Adults and Mental-BRAIN HEALTH morbidity(High Rate of Skilled Marathon Games Runner and Trained Pilots/Drivers in Fatique/faints/deaths-----"Physio-Metabolism disarray", Wild Life anomalies and Poultries and Trees Health suffers or deaths-----"Inter-Physio-malpratisings", IN with ceaseless the Qualitatives denote ELECTRO-STIMULUS  Frequencies Stimulations of the indubitable concertings of Social-Community and populations, in with the consistents high growings Bellicose Groups of the ANTI-Society-Govt Rhetorics of in the showings worlds News daily.  IN of the ABSOLUTE Deprivings WORLDS CITIZENS the RIGHTS of LIFE HEALTH GROWTHS FREEDOMS, special of NEEDY-ILL-ADAPTINGS Populations Globes.  Cont'd.   ...........  

Rosa Rodriguez
Rosa Rodriguez

My father used to have Mechanic popular magazines with all the future machines and discoveries and I use to wonder and think when I will be an adult we will have all t his incredible t hings... NOTHING! 

Rosa Rodriguez
Rosa Rodriguez

With all the brain advancing how come you have not discovered something to help people with tourette syndrome? This is a neurological condition as you may know. Shy they dont work into developing something that they can command the brain not to make those noises or make faces or say bad words etc. They should even try hypnotherapy and see if that is the solution to tourette syndrome.

RL Jacobs
RL Jacobs

I'm cynical. I foresee a lot of hiccups, especially if it we releases out into the masses, for proper testing of course.   

Thomas Mc
Thomas Mc

Considering the way many people think, the future is now very uncertain.

Connie Koehler
Connie Koehler

Years ago, I told my children that this was possible because the brain, mind was powerful.

Charles King
Charles King

Why stay crawling, if we take a quantum leap? Surrender to the Quantum Vacuum? See more in www.profheliocouto.com.br 


Ian Jeremiah Aguila
Ian Jeremiah Aguila

Soon the whole world will be modernized with the unthinkable technologies that we only see on movies...

Cynthia Carlson
Cynthia Carlson

Read "The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe" by Lynn McTaggart. 

Lisa Largent
Lisa Largent

fascinating, but dangerously close with doing away with the human factor completely. Scary!

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

Great but how some have already commented, its really DANGEROUS. Just imagine if important leaders like Presidents and Prime Ministers can be controlled by terrorists to start Nuclear wars etc. Its too dangerous i Guess?


Solvita Avota
Solvita Avota

These realy are some amazing accomplishments for human race. But i like to say : every world changing accomplishment brings us closer to a new beggining. Maybe it will be a hacker or somebody elese but it will be a living human being who brings as back to a new era,an era of humans who will have to discover all aver angain. Maybe i don't make any sence,but i belive that we will destroy ourselves. Im glad that we have made such a progress in couple of centuries.Im glad that  homo sapian has made such a progress and emprovment. Human brain is an amaizing power,but i think in future it will destroy it selve and all the life on planet earth and the new beggining will start. I don't know ,we don't know what the future brings.But i know i will not see it.. (in my thext could be a tonne of grammar mistakes,i apologize)

Christian Duerig
Christian Duerig

There is a lot to come in neuroscience.

A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory. | Video on TED.com

"Geist & Gehirn" von Prof. Dr. Dr. Manfred Spitzer tells you a lot on You Tube.

S K
S K

It's amazing to me how many short sighted geeks there are in the world.

Don't you know that Big Brother will be hacking your brain in just a few years?...after the initial success of the polite, non-intrusive apps.  If you think music is all that the Gov's will turn on in your head?...I think it's rather obvious that many people fall for innocent bait.   Snowden is important is this regard in that he blew the whistle. If you think spying is of concern now...just wait for Brain Release 3... 

M. Pyron
M. Pyron

I am waiting for being able to control your OWN thoughts !!

Linda Schrier
Linda Schrier

@L Johnson


As with all things, technology is only as good as those using it. It is unfortunate that some things can be used for good or for other purposes.


C.k. Cheung
C.k. Cheung

..... Cont'd.  REALIZINGS the NEUROTechnologies toxicity Potent Effects of Humans BIO-PHYSIO-GENETICS Health functionals depletings("Neurological Effects of Radiofrequen-cies ElectroMagnetic Radiation",Dr.Henry Lai on 'Internet'), and the Lesionings of Immunology Reactivities, Bio-Celluous Lipid and Proteins Sugars Enzymes Interpretation Irregularit-ies, the sciences proof of Humans DNA strands damages of its profound Repairing Functions and Gens mediatings-translations in Health Reproductivity("Biological Effects of Narrow Band Pulsed Electric Fields"), ceaseless of the modulated Stimuli-Impulses-Trains Frequencies in of VITAL direct Intrusives STIMULATINGS of Humans BRAIN of NEUROLOGICAL Disruptive PSYCHIC-PSYCHO Effected Mental Health("Microwave Bioeffect Congruence with Schizo-phrenia")in which BLIND can SEE(Images projectings on to Occipital Cortexes), DEAF can HEAR(mimic sounds/talkings Transmitings in to Hearin Zone of Brain Cortexes), Neural-Physiology disarrays, memories functionings distorts & loss, neurasyphilis, Mental-Brain-States, Bio-Physio Abnormaities, and the studied 'Blood-Brain-Barrier' in impairments, and of non Bio-Physio functionals mechanism of BRAIN, of produc-ing interferences, of the fast growings of PSYCHIATRIC-PSYCHO  diagnosis with Young Ages among common populations, with of to irreparable Involuntary Suicides deposits to seniors developed Adults with of Unrests-Disturb-Life("Brain-Mental Disorders"), and of HORRIFIC HighCrime IN-AC-Cidents(Brain-Waves Disorders"), EQUIPPED with TECHNO-DREAMS-MANIPULATION Functionings at night sleepings, and 24HRs-days-years HALLUCINATIONS Pheno-menon, ENTICINGS MENTAL BRAIN STATES Discords and Irregularities of individuals and populations, and the BIO-NEURAL-PHYSIO Abnormalities EFFECTS to STUDENTS YOUNGS and Adults, with of LEARNS, COGNTIONS and BEHAVIOURAL-PSYCHO, and MNESTICS Abilities Develop-ments Inhabituations DEFICIENCIES Alienations.  THE EN-sured Deleterious Effects towards PREGNANCY-FETAL development with of Embryonic Stem Cell, in High Influences of Abortions and Complications, and of Faulties-Growths, with later-on developings("World Health Organization(WHO) Pan-demic Pnases"), INFANTS & CHILDREN Adolescences of the developing HEALTH, Blood-Hormones and Melatonin and of essential IMMUNOs, optholmology, skeletal and organs-tissues-celluous, and of the 40% HIGHER 'Absorbtion' and 'Cumulative' of ionizings Radiation in biofields, the MENTAL BRAIN, and of long living Expectancy, have prone to Cancerous ILLnesses and developments OBSCURITIES as Physiology & Developing Disorders so on("The Sensitivity of Children to EM Fields"/"Is Social Anxieties Disorders in Child-hood associated in developmental deficit/delay"), AGED of the Biofucntion depletings and NEUROHealth accelerated DEGE-NERATIVES and IMPAIRED Brain-Blood Flows with Extensive OXIDATIONS, of High Increases BRAIN DISEASES with early Ages TRACKING in ALZHEIMER and DEMENTIA Mortaltiies, SICKED & DISABLES of Bio-Physio Negative, the Inequality, and of CO-Morbidities, of the TORNTAMOUNTINGS to People LIFE HEALTH WORKS FREEDOMS. ("UHF Microwave Harassment"/"Biological Effects of Microwave on the Nervous System"/"Microwave weapons of BrainStem Effects").  Decaying Effects to Structures ATOMIC materials Infusings, YEASTS baterials Logics, and BIO-ECOLOGICAL environmental, with the Exceptional High Levels & Intensities of BioChem indifferences and Magnetic-Static-Electric Fields depositings to the Condensed ambiances-Atmospherics, with of ICE Composes De-Alighn MELTINGS, SOILS Bio-Minerals decompistings, and Extremes to Electric Over Hazardous and Fumes Flammables, and Metallurgy Fatique(" High Power RF Weapons A Threat to Stealth & Cruises"/"Cli-mate Changes 2013").  THE Persistents HARSSINGS Worlds PEOPLES Crucial PEACES DIGNITIES of its essentials Vitalizings and Generics.   MULTI-Damagings of SOCIAL HARMONIOUS and FREEDOMS of SOCIETY, Affluences and International Society PEACES & ECONOMIES and JUSTICES and of the GLOBES SUSTAINABLITIES ENVIRONMENTS. ("High Power Electromagnetic-Pulses Weapons-Biochemical Effects"/"Environmental and Publics Safeties Health Risks Assessment Managements").  OF THE Continuous-Crossing -Effects of the TOXICITY EFFECTS towards Vast Populations At Larges with Cross-Oceans-Continents Environmental Phenomenon, and with of the defaulted Lateral-Effects to NEXT GENERATIONS. ("High Power Direct Energy EMR Wepaons, Effects"/"Universal Human Rights"). WHERE deserve  the High  ATTENTIONS of International Community, NGOs, professinals and law societies, Int'l Volunteer+Medias, and of the adequate measures of its imminent, with Cares Considerations of Peoples/Citizens the essentail RIGHTS of LIFE-FREEDOMS, SAFETIES and HEALTH developments, INVESTMENTS, and of Social Interests to peoples Natural Interests, would be the CAUSES of International Society RIGHTS Enhances. ("Bankok Declaration, 2005"/"Environ-mental Health Safeties, en HealthCouncil, WHO, 1999/1998 Milne"/"International Law, UN").  WISH ALL population world-wides in HEALTH and HAPPY always, and Hope the Message can alert to All Others as for knowledges and Precautionaries. Thanks.      

jay dee
jay dee

@S K  

Don't worry, your concerns will be wiped from your mind soon.

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