Scientists have discovered a way to connect two brains so that one may read the other’s mind. University of Washington researchers Andrea Stocco and Chantel Prat created a brain-to-brain interface that showed incredible results when participants were told to simply think their questions and not say a word. Using the internet, two participants communicated wordlessly and though no faces could be seen or voices heard, a full mind held conversation ensued. Reportedly, the study closely mimicked a virtual video game. But the question is, how does it work?
The brain-to-brain interface technology combines nueroimaging and nuerostimulation which makes causes the brain to behave similarly to the way it interacts with the body. The only difference is, the brain is sending data to another brain. In a recent press release, lead author Andrea Stucco declared the study new and groundbreaking.
“This is the most complex brain-to-brain experiment, I think, that’s been done to date in humans. It uses conscious experiences through signals that are experienced visually, and it requires two people to collaborate.”
To reach the point of mind-reading, the researcher went through an extensive study. Their experiment involved five pairs and 20 rounds of questioning. With each person’s head attached to an EEG machine, which is a way to record brain activity, one person telepathically asks the other a question. According to the new release, both a “yes,” or “no” answers send a signal back to the brain of the person who asked the question.
Reportedly a “yes,” generates such a powerful response that subject on the receiving end experiences a visual stimulation that results in them seeing a flash of light referred to as phosphene. The light can often appear as a blob, waves or a line and is caused by a disruption in the visual field. In addition to the main experiment, the UW researchers also did experiments to prevent cheating throughout the study. Chantel Prat asserted her concerns with the participants’ ability to cheat and the measures taken to prevent it.
“We took many steps to make sure that people were not cheating. They have to interpret something they’re seeing with their brains. It’s not something they’ve ever seen before.”
In efforts to make cheating virtually impossible; participants’ heads were coiled and then a plastic spacer was added to manipulation the magnetic field, allowing for less phosphenes to be exchanged. Initially, subjects were tested without the coiling and spacer at which time participants could guess the answers 72 percent off the time. After the EEG helmet was coiled and the spacer added, however, subjects could only guess answers 18 percent of the time. Therefore, even with adjustments, the experiment was still flawed.
Throughout the brain-to-brain study, many errors occurred including subjects not being able to detect answers at all. They later discovered that this issue was also do to improper coiling. In the brain, this caused subjects to either focus on multiple questions or fail to focus altogether. There were also many interruptions to brain signals by other hardware problems. Despite the set backs, this study is reportedly a major step up for these researchers who first began a similar study back in 2013.
In 2013, UW scientists followed the footsteps of others who first tried the brain-to-brain connection with animals like monkeys and rats, according to CBS News. Incorporating the human mind, they started off by sending a person’s brain signals to the internet and having another person control their hand movements virtually. The next step was to make this happen telepathically. In 2014, the researchers at the University of Washington were given a grant of $1 million from W.M. Keck Foundation to extend the research.
Now with full funding, the brain-to-brain study has broken the mold for human telepathy. Though many are referring the science as mind-reading, researchers like Stucco simply consider it a way to access 100 percent of your brain, an ability that is currently impossible.
“What we are doing is kind of reversing the process a step at a time by opening up this box and taking signals from the brain and with minimal translation, putting them back in another person’s brain.”
See the brain-to-brain interface in action:
[Image via Getty Images/Credit: De Agostini Picture Library]