Brain-wave computing is most likely two or three tech generations down the line but it looks to have other implications beyond just making computing faster and more streamlined. It might also strengthen your brain signals, believes a team of researchers from the University of Washington. Stronger than day-to-day activities do. "Bodybuilders get muscles that are larger than normal by lifting weights," said the study’s lead author Kai Miller, a UW doctoral student in physics, neuroscience and medicine. "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." In experiments in which epilepsy patients were asked to imagine that they were controlling a cursor, scientists found that in less than 10 minutes the brain signals were stronger than if the patients had been doing the actual physical gestures.

"People have been looking at imagined movements as a way to control computers for a long time. This study provides a glimpse of the underlying neural machinery," said co-author Rajesh Rao, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering.

"The rapid augmentation of activity during this type of learning bears testimony to the remarkable plasticity of the brain as it learns to control a non-biological device," Rao said.

Imagining an action creates weaker versions of the brainwaves needed to actually perform that action. Repeated imagining of the action will strengthen the brainwaves related to it.

In addition to brain-computing interfaces, the researchers’ findings could have significant impact in prosthetic work and robotics.

By Mark Alvarez