Researchers say that their experiment is the first to prove that human brains can be linked through modern technology so that a person knows what the other person thinks without even asking.
The team hopes that their experiment could lead to game-changing applications including data transfer from one person to another or the transmission of the brain state from an alert individual to an exhausted one.
The study which was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE was sponsored by W.M. Keck Foundation which tossed $1 million into the research.
Andrea Stocco, a co-author of the study and researcher at University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, explained that she and her colleagues used a common guessing game. Study participants had to guess what object their peers were thinking about by asking 20 or fewer questions whose answers could be Yes or No.
During the experiment, two volunteers engaged in the game in lab facilities located 1 mile apart. The volunteer who picked the object had an electrode cap on his head, while the volunteer who was supposed to guess the object had to wear a magnetic coil over the part of the brain that receives visual stimuli.
The second player used a computer to select a question from a computer screen when trying to guess the object, while the first player answered the questions by simply gazing at a flashing light when the answer was positive.
When the answer was Yes, a signal traveled via the Internet to the other player’s brain. When the answer was No, there was no signal.
The second player reported that he was visually interrupted or ‘saw’ a flash of light when the answer was Yes. But not all participants in the experiment saw the same thing; some of them saw a shape, a lightning bolt or a blob.
Researchers explained that they performed many tests before positioning the magnetic coil right, but the results of the experiment surprised just about every one.
“We knew in theory it could work. We wanted to know how well it could work,”
Through this non-verbal method of communication, volunteers were able to guess the right object in 72 percent of cases. And they saw the flashing light and interpreted it as an Yes in 90 percent of asked questions.
Image Source: Flickr