Computer hook-up makes brains stronger

Brains can adapt quickly to computers after being hooked up, and even become stronger for it, according to US boffins.

University of Washington researchers studied signals on the surface of the brains of epilepsy patients by using ‘imagined’ movements to move a cursor, and found that when they watched it respond to their thoughts, it caused their brain signals to become stronger than usual.

It was claimed that this could in the future benefit stroke victims or others with brain damage, and that brains could learn very quickly how to control external devices such as computers or replacement limbs.

“Body builders get muscles that are larger than normal by lifting weight,” said lead author Kai Miller. “We get brain activity that’s larger than normal by interacting with brain-computer interfaces. By using these interfaces, patients create super-active populations of brain cells.”

Co-author Rajesh Rao said that people had been looking at how imagined movements could control computers for some time, but study proved how remarkable the brain was with its learning ability.

Research on the ability to control devices with brain signals has been done for a while, but this is an important example of how it might be able to train the brain up. Who knows – in the future we could see it being used as an educational tool.

We’ve already seen games like Brain Training for the Nintendo DS and the success of movement-based games on the Wii. Could we see games complete with electrodes connected up to your head in the future?

Pong’s already been done…