The Wolverine and his adamantium claws may be beyond the reach of modern science, but a team of scientists from the Harvard Medical School has brought Charles Xavier’s telepathy one step closer to reality. The team of scientists led by Dr. Seuing-Schik Yoo has created a system that allows people to telepathically control rats by combining a computer with an electroencephalography (EEG) machine and a focused ultrasound device. The new technology has potential applications ranging from improved medical treatment to border protection.
EEG machines, often seen in medical shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, are devices that can detect and read electrical activity in the human brain. Ultrasounds are machines that produce sound waves beyond the range of human hearing. They’re best known for being used to examine babies in the womb.
In the study, participants sat in a room with a computer screen displaying a strobe effect while they were attached to an EEG. In a separate room, an anaesthetised rat had an ultrasound device connected to the outside of its head. The participants were then instructed to look at the strobing computer screen at their leisure. When they looked at the strobe it caused a pattern to be produced in their brain waves. The EEG machine detected this pattern and activated the ultrasound device, producing extremely focused sound waves that stimulated a precise region of the rat’s brain. The stimulation caused the rat to move its tail, essentially giving the participants the ability to telepathically move the rat’s tail in a process taking less than 1.6 seconds.
According to Dr Yoo, the applications for this brain-to-brain connection are numerous. Such a system could be used to help a paralysed person relearn the use of their limbs by having a therapist initially move them with their mind. It might one day also allow investigators to link with animals to use their enhanced senses, such as Customs agents using dogs’ superior sense of smell.
This sort of telepathic linking, however, is still a long way off. Dr Yoo cautions that there is still much more work to do. “You have to know how to interpret brain activity completely, and we cannot now – so far the research is not there yet.”
In the meantime, we can only hope that they figure it out soon. Real psychic powers would definitely make the next X-Men movie even more awesome than the last one.