Brain-To-Brain Communication Finally Achieved!
November 4, 2019
Can two brains really communicate DIRECTLY
with each other?! Did science just invent Telepathy? Howdy brain people, Trace here for DNews!
Did you get my message?! YES I transmitted it to you, brain to eye! Science! This week,
a study in PLOS One detailed how two brains were wired together via the internet. The
news media went crazy, claiming telepathy and ESP and all sorts of other magical nonsense.
This isn’t magic, it’s science. Basically, what this international group of
scientists have done is use a brain computer interface, or BCI, to read the activity from
one brain. They took that reading and translated it into a binary message. Then they sent it
to through the internet, and decoded it on the other end to put it into a different type
of computer-brain interface, or CBI. The CBI then sends the signal into the receivers brain
aaaaaand that’s it. Yeah. It’s a lot, but hang on, we’ll go through
it. First, reading a brain isn’t anything new.
We’ve been using the technology used in this experiment since the 1870s; it’s called electroencephalography.
EEGs read the movement of ions through the brain, and they’ve become sensitive enough
to do so without being physically implanted. Both the sender and the computer had to be
trained first to encode the binary message… they did so by moving their hands for a 1
and feet for a 0. They did this so the “language” would be understood by the sender and the
receiver. The movement creates specific electrical signals
in the brain that were picked up by the EEG and e-mailed to three computers 5,000 miles
away. We’ve done this a ton of times, this alone isn’t that big a deal. Usually, scientists
do this to show that a brain can control a wheelchair, robotic arm or even another animal
— like the tail of a rat. [a]But in this case, we can’t beam a signal right into another
human’s brain, so the researchers analyzed the best spots on the receivers’ brains to
stimulate phosphenes, or little flashes of light on the periphery of human vision. When
you rub your eyes, the lights you see are phosphenes. So when the receiving computer got the email
with the binary code, it was sent to a robot-assisted transcranial magnetic stimulator, or TMS.
The robot had been pre-programmed to select the part of the brain that produces those
phosphenes in the subject’s peripheral vision. It moved to that spot, and activated magnets
and created the phosphenes! The subjects would then see lights corresponding
to the message in binary… so zero, one, one, zero, zero, became long and shorts, like
morse code! And that’s that! One brain, sent a message to another! Great care was taken
to keep the receiver isolated from any other sensory input. They even made them wear blindfolds
and earplugs. It’s not exactly magical once you break it
all down, is it? It feels more like a jury-rigged set of science experiments all thrown together…
which is exactly what it is. As iO9 wrote, “it wasn’t the most elegant set-up,” which
is putting it lightly. All I can think is, we can TOTALLY simplify this, which is really
exciting. This is just the very first tiny step down
a long road of brain-to-brain networking. There may come a day when you can control
your computer with your thoughts, or shoot a quick brain message to your boyfriend, transmit
a complicated emotion to your friend, or even live as a Borgian collective with everyone!
But, for now, this is what we’ve got. What would you want to say if you could communicate
brain-to-brain? The comments are the perfect place to test
out some telepathy jokes! Share them with me, and thanks for watching DNews. If you
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