In an all time first, neuroscientists have demonstrated direct, noninvasive brain-to-brain communication in humans. During the experiment, two subjects were able to exchange mentally conceived words despite being an amazing 5,000 miles away from each other. From io9:
It’s the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging. Two human subjects, one in India and one in France, successfully transmitted the words “hola” and “ciao” in a computer-assisted brain-to-brain transmission using internet-linked electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies.
It wasn’t the most elegant set-up, but it represents an important step towards achieving technological enabled telepathy — the ability to exchange thoughts directly with another person.
Prior to this experiment, most researchers have used EEG technologies to facilitate interactions between a human brain and a computer. In one experiment, for example, researchers were able to get a human to move a rat’s tail with their thoughts. In such cases, researchers use electrodes attached to a person’s scalp to record electrical currents in the brain. Computers record these ‘action-thoughts’ — such as consciously thinking about moving an arm or leg — and then interpret those signals and translate them to a control output, such as a robot, mouse cursor, or wheelchair.
But in this new experiment, an international team of researchers added a second human brain to the other end of the system. To make it happen, they recruited four participants, one of whom was assigned to the brain-computer interface (BCI) branch, the part of the chain where the messages were to originate. The other three participants were assigned to the computer-brain interface (CBI) branch to receive the messages being transmitted to them.
Using EEG, the researchers translated the greetings “hola” and “ciao” into binary, and then emailed the results from India to France. At this receiving location, a CBI transmitted the message to the receivers’ brains through noninvasive brain stimulation. This was experienced as phosphenes — flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The light appeared in the numerical sequences that allowed the receivers to decode the data in the message.