Controlling Someone Else's Arm With Your Brain
Tom Spendlove posted on July 30, 2015 |
Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo have developed affordable, engaging and accessible experiments to demonst...

Greg Gage wants everyone to have the ability to study the brain and neurosciences. His frustration stems from the fact that statistically one out of five people will have a brain disorder at some point in their lives, but very few people understand the brain.

“How to control someone else’s arm with your brain” is Gage’s TED talk, discussing the maker attitude he brings to neuroscience equipment and demonstrating some of his work. An estimated eighty billion neurons are working in the brain at any time, and the first demonstration shows Gage translating body movements to sound and wavelengths.

Images courtesy of Backyard Brains

The experiment requires someone to act as the controller and a second person to be controlled. Two electrodes are placed on the ulnar nerve at the back of the forearm, and a third placed on the back of the hand to act as a ground. The controlled person has two electrodes attached to their nerve, and after a few inputs from the first test subject movement is transferred to the second subject.

Gage explains that the brain signals from the motor cortex can be read as electrical discharge. The ulnar nerve is close to the skin so stimulating it using the brainwaves of another person causes the test subject to involuntarily move their last three fingers. Greg goes on to demonstrate that the brainwaves are required for this experiment to work. Physically moving the first subject’s hand up and down will not control the second subject, because the brainwaves have not been engaged to perform the action.

Along with the rest of his team at Backyard Brains, Gage develops tools designed to teach people about neuroscience while being easy to use and affordable. An Arduino kit called the Spikerbox replicates the experiment here in the video, RoboRoach gives you the power to create and control a cyborg cockroach, and another experiment allows control of a light bar and stepper motor.

Greg Gage is a great speaker and this TED talk is very interesting both on the physical experiment level and the science and engineering being explained. Being able to communicate STEM concepts with an accessible and engaging set of outreach tools is great for inspiring the next generations of engineers.

Images courtesy of Backyard Brains

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