Communicating through telepathy achieved

Brain-to-brain communication or telepathy between two individuals separated by a few thousand kilometres — Thiruvanathapuram, the capital of Kerala and Strasbourh in France — has now been successfully demonstrated.

The communication was mediated by internet and, unlike earlier studies, was completely non-invasive. The study was carried out in March and April this year. The results of a proof-of-concept study were published a few days ago in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study demonstrated how a simple word “hello” thought by the sender of the message sitting in Thiruvanathapuram could bring sensations of light in the receiver (based in France), thus making him aware of the sender’s thought.

For this to happen, the study used computer-brain interfaces to convert conscious motor imagery into brain activity changes in the sender of the message. The brain activity changes so produced were captured by an EEG (electeroencephalography) and converted into binary information without the use of any invasive techniques.

These physical signals were then emailed to France and delivered to the receiver by a robot. The receiver could see or not see sensations of light depending on whether the binary signal received was either 1 or 0. The receiver wore an eye-mask and ear plugs to cut out external simulations/signals.

Thus the receiver could not hear or see the spoken word as such but could see flashes of light when the message received was in 1s.

The signals sent were randomised to reduce the chances of the receiver guessing. According to the paper, the randomisation process ensured that the probability of guessing correctly 140 random bits of information sent was low — akin to guessing correctly 112 heads or more when a coin was tossed 140 times.

“We believe these experiments represent an important first step in exploring the feasibility of complementing or bypassing traditional language-based … interpersonal communication,” notes the paper by Carles Grau, the first author from Starlab Barcelona, Barcelona.

The study also provides new research directions in non-invasive transmission of emotions and feelings between humans separated by large distances.

Published in The Hindu on September 8, 2014