There are numerous forms of nonverbal communication in nature. Body language, for instance, is one such example, but it's very limited in what kind of messages it can convey. Pheromones are another, in which the great "hive minds" of some insects are driven by these complex chemicals. Even simple smell does its fair share of "talking" among some species. However, telepathy - the direct communication between brains - is something reserved for science fiction.
But not anymore. That is, according to a new study that claims that humans can communicate over the internet using brain signals alone.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, details how two human subjects were recently able to communicate the words "hola" and "ciao" over a distance of 5,000 miles just by thinking them.
Now don't get too excited. While the thoughts were properly interpreted by the right recipient in India and France, respectively, they weren't exactly "spoken" via the mind like in the movies. Instead, the thoughts were actually emailed and then translated.
The researchers accomplished this, they explained in a recent statement, by "leveraging existing communication pathways."
"One such pathway is, of course, the internet, so our question became, 'Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other?'" said coauthor Alvaro Pascual-Leone.
According to the study, the participants were asked to focus on the word they wished to send, and the resulting brain signals were interpreted by electroencephalogram (EEG) devices and then the final data package was emailed away.
When a the data was received on the other end, it was translated again, this time by a computer-brain interface (CBI), which then instructed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technology to send signals through the scalp. These signals looked like bright flashes of light in the recipient's peripheral vision, which was interpreted by the participant like a mental Morse code.
That's a great many more steps compared to the kind of telepathy that we see on the silver screen, but Pascual-Leone says that the fact that it worked is huge.
"This in itself is a remarkable step in human communication, but being able to do so across a distance of thousands of miles is a critically important proof-of-principle for the development of brain-to-brain communications," he explained.
And who knows, maybe one day we'll be living in an eerily quiet world where people chat away on headsets without having to say a thing.
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