Don’t Say a Word, Think It

Humans achieve computer-assisted telepathy. Here’s how it was done

Published: 29th September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2014 10:13 PM   |  A+A-

In the early 19th Century, five sisters known as the Creery Sisters aged between 10-17 were tested at the Society for Psychical Research in the UK, as they claimed they had telepathic abilities. But they were declared fraudulent. Samuel Soal, a psychical researcher and English mathematician, also experimented for telepathic abilities in 1940-41, but he had altered his results to match, claimed his assistants. Many such unsuccessful attempts to reveal telepathic abilities were made in history. But the recent scientific experiment boosted by the advantages of technology proved successful in passing a message between two minds across 5,000 miles.

According to the study that was published in PLOS ONE journal, “Over the past 15 years, technologies for non-invasive transmission of information from brains to computers have developed considerably, and today brain-computer interfaces embody a well-established, innovative field of study with many potential applications.” They proved this to be true when they sent a mind-message from India to France.

Researchers used non-invasive methods, made brain recordings of a person thinking the words ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’ and emailed these messages to France, where a machine converted the thought words into brain stimulation in another person. The recipient received these signals as flashes of light and he successfully interpreted these flashes into greetings.

Pascual-Leone, neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and a professor at Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with his colleagues Starlab Barcelona, in Spain, and Axilum Robotics, in Strasbourg, France, used both Electroencephalogram (EEG-where electrodes record the activity of the cortex in the brain) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS-which stimulates a person’s neurons in a certain area to create flashes of light) in this experiment.

According to the methods summary in the study report, “The computer-mediated brain-to-brain transmission from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India (using a Brain-Computer Interface) to Strasbourg, France (using a Computer-Brain Interface or CBI) was realised using internet-linked EEG and TMS technologies respectively. We used a force sensor on the coil to maintain constant contact pressure on the scalp, implemented a coil rotation information encoding strategy (as opposed to one relying on coil location), and had subjects wear eye masks and earplugs.”

Two experiments conducted by the researchers, one on March 28 and the other on April 7, in which the encrypted messages ‘hola’/‘hello’ and ‘ciao’/‘goodbye’ were exchanged respectively. “In the first experiment, the transmission error rates were of six per cent, five per cent and 11 per cent for the BCI, CBI and the combined B2B (Brain-to-Brain) components respectively, and in the second, the error rates were of two per cent, one per cent and four per cent respectively,” says the study.

According to a report on livescience.com, “One person (sender), was hooked up to an EEG-based brain-computer interface; the other three people (recipients) received the messages in the form of TMS, and had to interpret the words based on the flashes they saw. Using the system, the message sender in India, transmitted the words to the message recipients in France, located 8,000 kilometres away. All three recipients correctly translated the message.”

kaviya@newindianexpress.com

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