Telepathy may be one step closer to reality, as researchers have successfully completed the first-ever direct brain-to-brain communication.
Thoughts were transferred from one person directly to others over the internet, while the subjects sat 5,000 miles away from one another, in India and France. Each participant wore a cap containing electrical contacts, without surgical connections.
"We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways. One such pathway is, of course, the internet," Alvaro Pascual-Leone of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, said.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded thoughts of the sender, which were sent to a receiver, wearing a device designed to translate the electrical message into a form that could be recognized by the human brain. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used to induce small reactions in human brains through the use of electric currents and magnetic fields.
Two words, "hola" and "ciao" were sent from one participant in India to three others, located in France. After the EEG recorded the thoughts, the messages were translated into binary code. These were then emailed to the receiving station, where the simple messages were fed through transcranial magnetic stimulation technology to the brains of participants.
People receiving the messages did not hear the messages, but "saw" flashes of light in their peripheral vision, called phosphenes. They then translated these flashes into a message, similar to morse code. Participants in the study were between the ages of 28 and 50, and in good health.
A second, similar study was also conducted between subjects located in France and Spain. That run had an error rate of 15 percent, about two thirds of which occurred by the receiving station.
Brain waves are already being used to control equipment, especially for those with physical challenges. By imagining moving their arms or legs, operators are able to control the motion of a wheelchair or robotic equipment.
"By using advanced precision neuro-technologies including wireless EEG and robotized TMS, we were able to directly and noninvasively transmit a thought from one person to another, without them having to speak or write. We believe these experiments represent an important first step in exploring the feasibility of complementing or bypassing traditional language-based or motor-based communication," Pascual-Leone told the press.
The successful telepathy study was detailed in the online journal Plos One.