A team of field experts from the University of Washington have put together a brain to brain computer interface that allows two people to communicate using the power of their minds. Does the development bring us a step closer to telepathy? Maybe.
Andrea Stocco and Chantel Prat are the research duo who invented the computer interface that enables people who are in different rooms to share thought with one another without using their words.
Stocco, assistant professor of psychology working at the University of Washington, gave a statement explaining that “Evolution has spent a colossal amount of time to find ways for us and other animals to take information out of our brains and communicate it to other animals in the forms of behavior, speech and so on”.
He went on inform that this process is known for requiring a certain amount of translation, but even so, human beings are still incapable of sharing all of the information passing through their minds. What we are able to communicate with one another is only a small part of what our brains process.
Using this as a starting point, Stocco and Prat started to reverse this process by first taking signals from one individual’s brain, then putting them inside another individual’s brain, all using a minimal amount of translation.
In short, the first person’s thoughts are translated into flashes of light (phosphenes) that the second person sees.
The duo’s experiment consisted in taking pairs of subjects and asking them to stay in separate rooms that were about a mile from each other.
The respondent was instructed to put an electrode cap on their head. The cap was hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, a device that has the ability to record electrical brain activity.
The inquirer was instructed to sit across from a magnetic coil found in their room. The coil’s job was to stimulate this person’s visual cortex and allow them to see the phosphene sent by the respondent.
After setting up the subjects, Stocco and Prat showed the respondent a digital image of an object and told them to focus on said object.
The inquirer was the given a list with various objects on it and a list of simple “yes” or “no” questions that related to the characteristics of the object the respondent had – “Is it a liquid?”, “Is it sweet?”, and so on.
The inquirer sent their chosen question by clicking on it, whereas the respondent sent their answer by looking at their screen and concentration on the word the word “yes” or the word “no”. Affirmative answers caused the inquirer to see a phosphene, while negative answers did not caused the inquirer to see a phosphene.
After playing 20 questions with their minds, the subjects deduced what the real object was 72 percent (72%) of the time.
The wrong deductions were attributed to the respondent not being sure which answer was the correct one, the respondent focusing on both answers, or the inquirer’s inability to recognize the phosphene.
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