Two people were separated by 5,000 miles and neither one had to speak or write a word. Considered the brain’s way of instant messaging, neuroscientists and robot engineers used multiple forms of neurotechnologies to send these messages between one person in India, and another in France. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Starlab Barcelona, and Axilum Robotics all participated in the international study.
One of the main focuses of the study was to see if sending messages between two people through reading out their brain activity was possible by using existing pathways of communication. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, co-author of the study noted that the team’s main question was “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 in India and France?” Results from the study proved that their dream of creating brain-to-brain communication is indeed a possibility.
Using two brain technologies connected by a computer brain via the Internet, researchers were able to create the link between the two participants. Both EEG and TMS systems were used, image-guided and assisted by robots. After prior studies demonstrated that people can think of moving a limb and have that thought processed via EEG interaction to a computer and then to a robot, researchers decided to take their experiment further. Scientists first gathered four participants between 28-50 years old. One person was designated as the sender of a message, while the other three were receivers.
An EEG machine picked up the thought of the sender, which was hello, and sent the thought as a code by email from India to France. The thought was then translated into a signal that passed into the scalps of receivers as brain stimulations using robot TMS. Such stimulations were perceived as flashes of light in numbered sequences that the participants would translate into a message. After analyzing their data, the team found that the error rate among communication signals was only 15%, 5% accounting for errors on the sender’s end and 11% error rate on the receiver’s end. Having the ability to communicate with another individual without written or spoken word is astounding in itself, however researchers are more astonished that these messages were able to be understood with a distance of 5,000 miles between the participants. In addition to an overall low error rate, these scientific advances will no doubt lead to more effective, quicker forms of communication in the years to come.