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Professor to 'hack' into Stephen Hawking's brain

Scientists at Stanford University have created the iBrain, something that will help them translate brain waves onto a computer. As Stephen Hawking's body fades, they are hoping to "hack" his brain directly. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There are several things I find hard to understand. Tennis' Williams sisters, for example. Or why diesel prices can be $1 a gallon different a mere five miles apart.

The things that go around Stephen Hawking's highly sophisticated brain, I wouldn't even try to fathom.

However, scientists at Stanford, led by Dr. Phillip Low (who is also CEO of Neurovigil), are working with him in order to access his brainwaves directly.

The tool they are using they call iBrain. It is designed to take brainwaves and have them be communicated on a computer. It consists of a black headband that contains neurotransmitters.

The Telegraph reports that, at the Francis Crick Memorial conference in Cambridge, England, next month, Low may try to demonstrate the technology on Hawking himself.

"We'd like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain," Low told the Telegraph.

Essentially, this is the latest experiment into mind reading.

Hawking has already used the technology.

Last summer, Low flew to England to meet with Hawking. He fitted him with the iBrain device and asked him to use as much of his brain power as he could to imagine he was scrunching his hand into a ball. The aim was to see whether his thoughts could be transcribed into words, through a series of signals.

At the time, Low told the New York Times: "We wanted to see if there was any change in the signal. And in fact, we did see a change in the signal."

Low told the Telegraph that his brainwave technology "opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body."

Hawking's hand muscles are fading. He can, the Daily Mail reports, no longer use the clicker with which he formerly activated his voice machine.

He now has to operate a "cheek switch," which means it takes several minutes for a message to be generated.

The iBrain has already been proposed as an alternative to sleep labs and the researchers behind it believe it may even be able to, one day, help with the treatment of depression and even autism.