South African University's Researchers Link The Brain To The Internet

Biomedical engineers from South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have succesfully connected a human brain to the Internet in real-time. The research project, titled "Brainternet", streams brain waves onto the Internet.

"Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person's understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity," said Adam Pantanowitz, Lecturer at the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering.

The Brainternet research project is said to be the Pantanowitz's brainchild. He supervised fourth-year students, Jemma-Faye Chait and Danielle Winter, in its development. Brainternet works by converting electroencephalogram (EEG) signals (brain waves) in an open source brain live stream. A person wears a powered, mobile, internet accessible Emotiv EEG device for an extended period. During this time, the Emotiv transmits the EEG signals to a Raspberry Pi – a credit card sized little computer - live streams the signals to an application programming interface (code that allows software programmes to communicate), and displays data on a website that acts as a portal.

Another way to look at the Brainternet project is that it, in simple terms, turns the brain into an Internet of Things (IoT) node on the World Wide Web.

“Ultimately, we’re aiming to enable interactivity between the user and their brain so that the user can provide a stimulus and see the response. Brainternet can be further improved to classify recordings through a smart phone app that will provide data for a machine-learning algorithm. In future, there could be information transferred in both directions – inputs and outputs to the brain,” concluded Pantanowitz.

Image Credit: University of the Witwatersrand.

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