September 7, 2014
Scientists Achieve First Successful Brain-To-Brain Communication In Humans
Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers have taken telepathic communication out of the realm of science fiction and into reality, successfully demonstrating that a simple message can be sent directly from the brain of one person to the mind of another.In research published recently in PLOS ONE, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues explain how they were able to use non-invasive techniques to transmit the information through the Internet to and from the scalps of people 5,000 miles away.
“It is kind of technological realization of the dream of telepathy, but it is definitely not magical. We are using technology to interact electromagnetically with the brain,” co-author Giulio Ruffini, a theoretical physicist with Starlab Barcelona, told AFP in a telephone interview Friday. “We hope that in the longer term this could radically change the way we communicate with each other.”
According to Macrina Cooper-White of The Huffington Post, Dr. Pascual-Leone’s team performed the feat by first attaching electrodes to the brain of one person living in India and three others residing in France. The first person was then asked to transmit a mental message to the others – a message that was detected using an electroencephalogram, which records electrical activity in a person’s brain.
Next, the message was translated into binary code by a computer and then emailed to France, where it was converted back into electrical pulses. Those pulses were applied to the brain of the receivers through a process known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which caused them to produce flashes of light in the subjects’ peripheral vision, which could then be decoded to find the original messages – in this case, “hola” and “ciao.”
“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,” Dr. Pascual-Leone said in a statement.
“One such pathway,” he added, “is, of course, the internet, so our question became, 'Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of Internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?'"
The researchers compared their experiment to the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging. While previous research on EEG-based brain-computer interaction (BCI) usually used communication between a human mind and a computer, this study set out to use the computer as a sort of intermediary to pass along the recorded electrical currents in the sender’s brain to the receiver, then ensuring that the receiver got and understood the messages.
The computer-brain interface (CBI) transmitted the message to the receiver’s brain through noninvasive brain stimulation in the form of phosphenes – the aforementioned flashes of light in their peripheral vision. That light appeared in numerical sequences that allowed the recipient to decode the information contained in the message, and while the subjects did not report feeling anything, they were able to correctly receive the messages.
“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,” Dr. Pascual-Leone said. “This in itself is a remarkable step in human communication.”
He added that “being able to do so across a distance of thousands of miles” was “a critically important proof-of-principle for the development of brain-to-brain communications.” These experiments, which also involved experts from Axilum Robotics in France, represent “an important first step in exploring the feasibility of complementing or bypassing traditional language-based or motor-based communication,” the Harvard professor concluded.
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