brain to brain communication

Source: Grau et al, 2014, PLoS

File this one under: Impending telepathic Cyborg takeover

According to a new study released by PLoS, a group of scientists have successfully sent a message between two brains, without actually implanting anything in either person. Yes, this was all achieved across a normal skull without any wires being inserted.

Simply put, one person was shown an image, which was picked up by an external set of sensors which measure brain activity (known as an electroencephalogram or EEG), and then this activity was sent over the internet to a robot-assisted, image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulator, which stimulated the message into a second person’s brain. The result was the second person also saw a version of the image.

Now, before you start thinking that we’ll soon be able to reading each other’s minds, or ever worse, implanting false memories into people, you have nothing to worry about (yet…).

The message being sent was the words “Ciao” and “Hola” which had been turned into binary, which was wither an “on” or “off” image. When the first person saw those images, they were told to think of one or two actions (moving their feet or hands), which the EEG could then read. The person receiving the message would then experience a slight image being projected into their peripheral vision to denote on or off. Once the binary message was complete, it could be turned back into the original word.

Source: Grau et al, 2014, PLoS

Source: Grau et al, 2014, PLoS

Also remember that this was only possible in extremely controlled laboratory conditions, with subjects in front of calibrated machinery. So we’re a while away from being able to project advertisements for Lightspeed Underpants into people’s dreams (although Futurama predicts that will happen by the year 3000).

What it does offer hope for is people who have a restricted ability to communicate. Much like robotic prosthetics are now getting to the stage where someone with limited muscle control can use a robot arm just by thinking, this may be another avenue for people with brain damage that makes it difficult to communicate, like stroke victims, or potentially even people in a coma.

And while it’s still very early in the experimental process, all major advances in robotics, neuroscience and medicine began with crude proof-of-concept experiments like this.

With so much interest and investment now being put into understanding how the brain works, experiments like this could also prove vital in understanding how aspects of the brain work in unison. Ultimately it may even help us all understand how creativity works in the brain at a much finer level.

While it’ll be a long while before I let someone stimulate messages into my brain, I can’t help but applaud the scientists pushing the envelope like this.

Are you excited by the prospects of being able to communicate telepathically like this? Let me know in the comments below.