A new study has shown that it is possible to manipulate complex visual images on a computer screen using only the mind.
The study found that when research subjects 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 handful of brain cells.
"The subjects were able to use their thoughts to override the images they saw on the computer screen," said the study's lead author, Itzhak Fried, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The study reflects progress in the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), devices that allow people to control computers or other devices with their thoughts.
BCIs hold promise for helping paralyzed individuals to communicate or control prosthetic limbs.
But in this study, BCI technology was used mostly as a tool to understand how the brain processes information, and especially to understand how thoughts and decisions are shaped by the collective activity of single brain cells.