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Brain-controlled video games

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Something I'm sure many of us have imagined could be the future of video gaming is the use of brainpower to directly influence a game. There's an interesting article on cnn.com here about some scientists who are working on technology that allows people to control machines through electrodes placed directly on the surface of the brain.


Writing in Monday's issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering, Leuthardt and Daniel Moran, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, said the patients learned in minutes how to control a computer cursor.


"It took six minutes of training and they all achieved control in less than 24 minutes," Leuthardt said.


"After a brief training session, the patients could play the game by using signals that come off the surface of the brain," added Moran. "They achieved between 74 and 100 percent accuracy, with one patient hitting 33 out of 33 targets correctly in a row."

It sounds like most of the research is primarily for applications for the disabled, but it's a really interesting idea that makes me wonder whether this is the eventual next logical step in the advance of interactive technology.


Of course, how to implement this technology without radical surgery is another story - even if the scientists develop the wireless adapter mentioned in the article, would implants still be required? We've obviously still got a long way to go, but it sounds like it has the potential to be truly revolutionary.

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I found this interesting:


Simply by thinking the word "move", the volunteers played the simple video game, the researchers reported.


Implying that the probes were tapping into a language center, probably the left temporal lobe. To me this sounds like an easy way to get some kind of control, but it's not ideal for a game controller. I mean how would you use words to guide a player in, say, Super Monkey Ball? "Roll slightly right, no wait, slow, nudge left...." - not gonna happen.


Better would be to tap right into the pre-motor area, where movements are planned and then sent to the motor centers and then off to the spinal cord (if it's going to your hands). The problem is that I think you'd also need to tap into the cerebellum, which is a ways away, where fine motor sequences are orchestrated. Although, I'm not sure how effective you'd be at simply imagining moving, compared to actually moving...interesting problem.


Off the top of my head, one way I think this could work is if you could ingest some kind of nanotech machines that find their way to the appropriate neurons, where they hook up and are able to transmit information from each neuron to the outside, where it's decoded into movement instructions. Either that or some ultra sensitive external listening device, but given that at the neuro-celluar level, each of us is slightly different, it would be hard to make a machine that worked for a significant number of people, even if it were possible to listen to individual cells from outside the skull.


Let's just say controlling a console game solely by thought is quite a ways off.

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Originally posted by Covak@Jun 16 2004, 09:24 PM
Although, I'm not sure how effective you'd be at simply imagining moving, compared to actually moving...interesting problem.


Works in dreams, don't it?

Not exactly. Waking and dreaming are very similar states as far as brain activity is concerned, but one important difference is that the brain shuts off the pathway from motor planning stages to motor execution, so when you move in a dream you probably are sending commands to your body to move, they just aren't getting to their destination.


The problem with a game that uses motor commands to directly control input is that I'm not sure how you could give commands for movement without them reaching your body and you actually performing the movment.

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