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Banten scientists probe brain-to-brain communication

Brainiac: “If successful, human brains could communicate with a computer or between brains through the Internet,” Warsito says. “This is the future of telecommunications.” JP/ Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak | The Jakarta Post | Jakarta

New advances in neuroscience and technology that come from Indonesia may soon make movies like the Wachowskis’ The Matrix and Wally Pfister’s Transcendence look like documentaries.

Researchers here are currently investigating technology that may allow digital communication between human brains.

Initiated by Serpong-based Center for Tomography Research Laboratory (CTECH Labs) Edwar Technology in Banten province, the researchers claim to be the first in the world to use four-dimension brain imaging and chaos encoding methods.

The work has been done in cooperation with the Kyoto University, Japan, with the help of the Communications and Information Ministry.

“If successful, human brains could communicate with a computer or between brains through the Internet. This is the future of telecommunications,” Warsito Purwo Taruno, the CEO of the private research institute, said in a recent interview.

CTECH Labs has developed a brain scanning method using electrical capacitance volume tomography (ECVT), which allows the researchers to see electrical waves sent by a brain while generating a volumetric map of brain activities — all in real time.

The 4-D activity data can be used to detect any abnormalities in a person’s brain.

Warsito’s lab, which focuses its research on cancer and medical technologies, currently explores the medical uses of the brain scanner.

“The ECVT-based scanner offers low-cost, radiation-free and instant detection of brain disfunctions. The device is way cheaper compared to MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] or CT [computed tomography] scan devices that not all hospitals, especially public hospitals, can afford,” Warsito said.

“Another advantage is that the scanner is mobile and easy to operate,” said Warsito, who studied chemical engineering and earned his doctorate from Shizuoka University in Japan. He also conducted postdoctoral research on tomography at Ohio State University in the US.

The brain scanner, which looks as if it comes straight out of a 1950s science-fiction B-movie, comprises a helmet with of host of electrodes connected by cables plugged into a power source that connects to a computer.

The 4-D brain activity scanner was introduced at the IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI) in San Francisco in April, which led to the joint research on more advanced applications.

“The human brain is one of the least explored fields in science and research,” said Ken Umeno, head of the Applied Mathematics and Physics Department of Kyoto University, during the signing of a letter of intent in March at the campus.

Scientists in Umeno’s department have been working on chaos coding research for application in advanced telecommunication system as, according to Umeno, the future of the information and communications technology largely depends on the acquisition of knowledge of brain sensing and coding schemes.

With the chaos computation, the 4-D human brain activity data acquired from the ECVT brain scanner is altered into series of codes which can be admeng/uploaded on the computer.

It allows chaotic signals, e.g., something wild and unpredictable, to be treated as a something structured, as opposed to unintelligible noise — thus allowing patterns to emerge.

The data transfer opens the potential development of brain-to-brain telecommunications system.

Warsito said there have not yet been studies on the legal or moral implications of such technology (at least outside of the movies) and suggested that people should anticipate the transboundary issues that may emerge.

“With this technology, people can communicate without language. People can just transfer their thoughts to others,” he said.

It could also trigger “side effect wars” as people could use the technology to project unpleasant memories onto others for their benefit, Warsito said.

And yes, a brain could be corrupted or bugged if computer virus accessed it.

“It will probably make the person a bit dizzy,” he said.

Neuroscience has become the new buzzword in the wake of brain research initiatives supported by US President Barack Obama. However most of that research continues to focus on 2-D brain imaging and and MRI scans.

“In this field, we’re not lagging behind compared to developed countries,” Warsito said.

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