Playing 20 Questions with the Mind: Collaborative Problem Solving by Humans Using a Brain-to-Brain Interface.

Stocco A, Prat CS, Losey DM, Cronin JA, Wu J, Abernethy JA, Rao RP - PLoS ONE (2015)

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pone.0137303.g004: Different Measures of BBI Performance Across Conditions and Subjects.(A) Mean number of objects correctly guessed by the inquirer over 10 experimental (red) and 10 control trials (black) across 5 pairs of subjects; chance performance is 0.125 (dotted line); (B) Mean area under the ROC curves (see Fig 5, below); chance performance is 0.5 (dotted line); (C) Mean number of bits transferred during the experimental and control conditions, using the mutual information criterion; chance performance corresponds to 0 bits (dotted line). In all figures, the grey lines represent the five pairs of participants. Note that in (A), two pairs near the center of the plot had identical performance, giving the appearance of only four lines.
Mentions: When examining the control condition, it is important to measure chance performance. Chance performance can be estimated in two ways, either by assuming a random inquirer who classifies the respondent’s answers as “Yes” or “No” with equal probability, or assuming an ideal inquirer who always classifies the respondent’s answers as “No” because no cortical input is received in the control condition. Because of the specific ways in which our lists and questions were constructed, both estimates yield the same chance performance of 12.5%. Statistical analysis revealed that performances of all participants were above chance in the experimental condition (single-sample t(4) = 8.97, p = 0.0008), but not in the control condition (single-sample t(4) = 0.78, p = 0.50; Fig 4A).

Bottom Line: We present, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the "20 Questions" game.Our results extend previous BBI research by (1) using stimulation of the visual cortex to convey visual stimuli that are privately experienced and consciously perceived by the inquirer; (2) exploiting real-time rather than off-line communication of information from one brain to another; and (3) employing an interactive task, in which the inquirer and respondent must exchange information bi-directionally to collaboratively solve the task.The results demonstrate that using the BBI, ten participants (five inquirer-respondent pairs) can successfully identify a "mystery item" using a true/false question-answering protocol similar to the "20 Questions" game, with high levels of accuracy that are significantly greater than a control condition in which participants were connected through a sham BBI.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America; Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
We present, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the "20 Questions" game. As in previous non-invasive BBI studies in humans, our interface uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect specific patterns of brain activity from one participant (the "respondent"), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver functionally-relevant information to the brain of a second participant (the "inquirer"). Our results extend previous BBI research by (1) using stimulation of the visual cortex to convey visual stimuli that are privately experienced and consciously perceived by the inquirer; (2) exploiting real-time rather than off-line communication of information from one brain to another; and (3) employing an interactive task, in which the inquirer and respondent must exchange information bi-directionally to collaboratively solve the task. The results demonstrate that using the BBI, ten participants (five inquirer-respondent pairs) can successfully identify a "mystery item" using a true/false question-answering protocol similar to the "20 Questions" game, with high levels of accuracy that are significantly greater than a control condition in which participants were connected through a sham BBI.

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