A group of international researchers has finally demonstrated non-invasive brain-to-brain communication among humans thousands of miles apart, an achievement that could change the way people communicate with each other.
In an experiment published in the journal PLOS ONE on Aug. 19, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues recruited four participants for an experiment that would determine if it is possible for people located as distant from each other as from India to France without the need to talk or type messages online.
The researchers assigned a participant from India to wear an internet-linked electroencephalography, or EEG, and come up with a simple greeting that a computer translated into digital binary code. The message was then emailed to France, which is 5,000 miles away from India and where it was transmitted to the other three participants through phosphenes, or flashes of light in the peripheral vision that appeared in a numerical sequence to allow the receiver to decode the message's information.
Although none of the participants underwent invasive surgery and the participants who were to receive the message did not hear nor see the word, they received and correctly decoded the message.
"It is kind of technological realisation of the dream of telepathy, but it is definitely not magical," study researcher Giulio Ruffini, from the Neuroelectrics Barcelona in Spain told the AFP. "We are using technology to interact electromagnetically with the brain."
Although the experiment only involved simple greetings such as "hola" and "ciao," it is seen as a crucial step to making technologically-enabled telepathy possible, which could give humans the ability to exchange thoughts directly with each other. Ruffini also said that more powerful techniques could be employed in the future to make sending of complex information possible.
The researchers likewise said that the result of the experiment opened up possibilities of complementing and even bypassing traditional means of communication and could have crucial applications such as in facilitating communication with stroke patients, who are known to experience difficulty conveying their thoughts through speech and gestures.
"More fully developed, related implementations will open new research venues in cognitive, social and clinical neuroscience and the scientific study of consciousness," Pascual-Leone and colleagues wrote. "We envision that hyperinteraction technologies will eventually have a profound impact on the social structure of our civilization and raise important ethical issues."