Sending messages to other people using our cell phones is pretty convenient method, but wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just think messages to them? Telepathy is still relegated to the realm of science fiction, but an international team of researchers have gotten one step closer to making it a reality. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), scientists have managed to transmit words from one person’s brain to another 5,000 miles away.
The experiment consisted of four participants at a time, one of which was assigned to be the brain-computer interface. The other three were all acting as receivers for the signal. The person interface with the computer was shown the words “Ciao” and “Hola” translated to binary. They were instructed to envision moving their hands for a 1 and their feet for a zero. They didn’t have to actually move anything, though. The brain activity for each action was recorded and sent over the internet to the other three participants.
The message was fed to each of the receivers through a TMS headset. The magnetic field produced by this contraption can increase brain activity, and in this case it was directed at the visual cortex. The subject would see the binary string (as output by the TMS headset) as a pattern of bright flashing lights in their peripheral vision. If light appeared in one location, it was a 1, and at another it was a 0. An EEG captured the information from the brain to analyze. After assembling the code, researchers found the word was transmitted successfully.
The technology needed to do this isn’t really new, but the precision required to filter out all the noise and properly stimulate the brain without invasive techniques is still very advanced. It might be possible one day to think a message and have it transmitted over the internet to someone else’s brain. Of course, that raises the possibility of brain spam. You’ll probably need a pretty good filter.