Telepathic communication is defined as the communication of thoughts by methods other than using the known senses or physical interaction. In other words, it is essentially communication by thinking. In the past things like telepathy sounded far-fetched and unrealistic, but then again if you delve deep enough into the past, many things sounded unrealistic. Technology seems to be progressing at a rapid-rate and new discoveries are beginning to bridge the gap between what was thought as “impossible” and reality.
In August of 2014, researchers discovered a method of communication that doesn’t involve speaking, touching, or sign language. In fact, the two participants were able to communicate while wearing blindfolds and earplugs – not to mention they were over 5,000 miles apart. Dr. Michel Berg was located at the University of Strasbourg (France), while Dr. Alejandro Riera was at a research lab in Kerala, India.
Brain-To-Brain Communication (2014): Long-Distance Virtual Telepathy
Researchers recently published in August 2014 that brain-to-brain communication is now possible. This is considered very groundbreaking in part because most people never fathomed that this would become possible. Scientists have figured out a way people can communicate brain-to-brain by making use of current technology and the internet.
How virtual telepathy or brain-to-brain communication became possible:
The improvements in technology in recent years have made brain-to-brain communication possible. Initially brain-computer interfaces were created, as well as programming to decode various thoughts that a person was having. The initial purpose of this technology was to help paralyzed individuals communicate their thoughts without speaking.
- Brain Computer Interfaces: These devices serve as a direct communication between the brain and an external device. In other words, your brain is hooked up to a device that records activity in a computer system.
- Computer-Brain Interfaces: These are essentially computers with programming that can decipher what a person is trying to communicate. Specific code is utilized to translate brain activity to what a person wants.
- EEG (Electroencephalograph): This is a very important part of the study because without the ability to record brainwave activity, the communication wouldn’t have been possible. The sender was able to manipulate his or her brainwave activity to send a specific message.
- Binary code: Binary code was used as a way of translating EEG activity into various words. In this case receiving flash via magnetic stimulation meant “1” and receiving no flash meant “0.” These were then converted into basic words that people could understand.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): With transcranial magnetic stimulation, it is now possible to manipulate brain activity. We already know that technology like low-field magnetic stimulation helps depression by changing activity within the brain. In the case of this study, magnetic stimulation was used on the visual cortex to stimulate flashes of light without the person actually seeing light through their eyes.
How Brain-to-Brain Communication Occurred: Virtual Telepathy
The combination of BCIs and CBIs ultimately lead researchers to investigate whether people could communicate brain-to-brain, or via virtual telepathy. The brain-to-brain communication probably sounds pretty complex to most people who read the study and/or who aren’t familiar with this type of technology. Below is a breakdown of how the process worked and how the researchers completed the impressive feat of virtual telepathy.
1. Simple words translated into binary code
Initially researchers came up with a specific binary code for basic words such as “hello” and “goodbye.” The code did not involve complex sentences and/or paragraphs, just basic words. Binary code is a method of computer processing information utilizing binary numbers “0” and “1.” Researchers in this study utilized coding called “Baconian Cipher” to translate and process the information.
2. Connect an EEG to one person
The individual that served as the “sender” in this study or the person who was sending their thoughts was hooked up to an EEG (electroencephalograph). This requires placing electrodes on the outside of a person’s scalp to read their brain waves. An EEG is a machine that is commonly used in practices of neurofeedback and biofeedback and provides us with an overall picture of electrical activity throughout the brain.
3. Sender thinks about hands or feet, receives feedback
The sender then is instructed to think about their hands or feet. The way this works is by the sender envisioning moving feet for the “0” and their hands for the “1” of the binary code. The brainwave differences were substantial enough for differences to be recorded on the EEG. Researchers then showed the sender a circle moving across a computer screen in relation to their EEG recorded brainwaves.
This served as a visual cue to help give them feedback or verify what they were trying to say. It should be noted that although the circle moving across the screen was used only as feedback, and in the future more efficient feedback mechanisms could be developed. Some hypothesize that with sufficient training, some individuals may not even need feedback to verify what they are attempting to communicate.
4. Translation, sent as an email across the internet
Once the EEG brain signals have been recorded, they are translated into binary code and sent as an email to the receiver. This was done with the brain-computer interfaces and the computer-brain interfaces. The messages were sent via email, but were not visually seen nor heard auditorily by the receiver.
5. Visual cortex stimulation, phosphenes (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)
After the message was sent via email across the internet, the receiver was hooked up to a specialized transcranial magnetic stimulation device. This magnet was placed outside the individuals head and works to manipulate brain activity with the production of specific electrical signals. In this particular study, researchers set the magnet to target the visual cortex (occipital lobe).
It then stimulated a perception of lights flashing, even though there was no direct light actually flashing on the eyes. In other words, the visual cortex received the same stimulation that it would if light was shining on the eyes, but none actually was – this is referred to as a “phosphene” (seeing light without any light actually entering the eye). Researchers verified this by blindfolding the receiver.
6. Decoding the flashes
The receiver understood that if they saw a flash, it meant “1” and if there was no flash, it meant “0.” They then were able to translate these series of flashes and non-flashes into various words. The words in this study were extremely basic: “hola” and “ciao” – but did demonstrate the first virtual telepathic communication. In total, the process of creating the words “hola” and “ciao” took 30 minutes, and deciphering them took another 30 minutes.
Grau et al. (2014) Brain-To-Brain Communication Study Synopsis
This study was able to demonstrate conscious brain-to-brain communication without affecting motor or peripheral sensory systems. In other words, the researchers didn’t have to cut open the brain or insert any instrumentation within the scalp. The way it worked was with artificial-random binary streams of encoded words were transmitted between the mind of the sender and the receiving subject.
By conducting a series of experiments, researchers were able to utilize brain-to-brain (B2B) communication utilizing the internet. They essentially combined BCI (brain-computer interfaces) based on various EEG (electroencephalograph) changes with CBI (computer-brain interfaces) promoting the conscious perception of light flashes (phosphenes) with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The light flashes were then translated into binary code, which was converted into short words “hola” and “ciao.”
Brain-to-brain communication in the future? How virtual telepathy could be used.
There are many ways this technology could be useful in the future. It may help individuals who are paralyzed, disabled, or unable to speak properly communicate. Additionally it may help serve as a more efficient form of communication as the technology advances and methods are perfected. In the far future, we may be able to use a similar technology to actually probe a person’s mind for criminal investigations.
- Paralysis: Perhaps the most important use for this technology in the immediate future could be for those who are paralyzed. Many people with paralysis are unable to verbally communicate. This would provide them with an alternative means of communication.
- Stroke victims: Not everyone recovers to full functioning after a stroke. Communication difficulties are common, therefore brain-to-brain technology could be a viable alternative.
- Paraplegics: It is thought that paraplegics could eventually use this technology to transmit instructions to artificial limbs. In other words, individuals with limb replacements could essentially move them by thinking.
- Locked-in-syndrome (LIS): This syndrome is characterized by inability to verbally communicate due to paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body, except the eyes. Since the person is essentially paralyzed, telepathic communication would be of significant benefit.
- Coma: Although being in a coma is characterized by lack of consciousness, some researchers suggest that this technology could still be applied. It could help us better understand what a person in a coma wants or what they feel.
- Disabilities: Individuals with speech disorders and other disabilities may be able to communicate via thought as opposed to speaking.
- Military: In the far future, this technology may be useful for the military; allowing communication across a noisy battlefield without being intercepted by enemies.
- Cell phone replacement: In the very far future, communication via thought could become the preferred method of communication. It may end up being more efficient than verbal communication in regards to quickness.
- Criminal investigations: Some believe that the technology may be used in criminal investigations to probe the brains of crime victims, criminals, and witnesses. Although we are a far cry from this level of advancement, it is a possibility.
- Afterlife: Others have suggested the possibility that we could eventually communicate with the deceased if we can find a way to stimulate their brain activity. Although this is highly debatable, it seems plausible for the far future.
Conclusion: Will virtual telepathic communication ever become useful?
The results of this study show that brain-to-brain communication technology could eventually shape the future of communication. Authors of the study believe that their current findings and future studies will allow scientists to explore cognition, neuroscience, and better understand consciousness. Some researchers believe that we are approximately 20 years away from developing useful applications for this technique.
Just a year ago, researchers from Harvard were able to make a rat’s tail move by connecting the rat’s brain to a human brain and having the human think about the tail moving. More recently, a group of researchers at the University of Washington were able to hook two human brains together, allowing one man to move the other man’s hand. This particular experiment documented that brain-to-brain communication of words was possible. This may one day become a preferred method of communication for humans and in the near future could be of significant benefit to individuals who are paralyzed or unable to verbally communicate.