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Brain Stimulation Used to Play Computer Game


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In the effort to create more visually stunning experiences for gamers, higher resolution monitors and more powerful components to drive them are constantly being worked on. According to science fiction though, eventually images could just be sent directly to our brains. Researchers at the University of Washington have taken a significant step toward that future with non-invasive, transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Using this standard piece of neuroscience equipment, the researchers produced phosphenes, which the test subject interpreted to navigate in a virtual world. Phosphenes are typically perceived as blobs or bars of light, despite no light actually entering the eye. The strong magnetic fields of transcranial magnetic stimulation are able to produce them, and in this case were used to provide information about a maze. With that information, the test subjects were to move their character forward or down, and with this brain stimulation made the correct choice 92% of the time. The researchers also noticed that the subjects improved over time, indicating they were learning to better identify the artificial stimuli.

While we might one day be able to experience video games within our minds, a potentially closer application, though still far away, is to assist the blind and visually impaired navigate in the real world. A lot of work needs to be done before that can become reality though, as the equipment used to create the magnetic fields is very bulky, but eventually new, more portable technologies could become available.



Source: University of Washington

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