Science

Humans enter a Vulcan-like mind meld when conversing

Humans enter a Vulcan-like min...
A simple conversation can lead to neural synchrony, according to new research
A simple conversation can lead to neural synchrony, according to new research
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A simple conversation can lead to neural synchrony, according to new research
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A simple conversation can lead to neural synchrony, according to new research

In the Star Trek universe, Vulcans would sometimes bust out one of their most impressive abilities: the mind meld. In this maneuver, the Vulcan would form a mental bond with someone else, and the two would sync up to the point that they basically shared one consciousness. Researchers at the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL) in Spain have now shown that humans do something a bit similar – just by having a conversation.

While the team there didn't quite uncover our latent psychic abilities, they did discover that when two people hold a conversation, their brain waves synchronize.

To carry out its research, the team placed pairs of people on either side of an opaque partition and had them hold a scripted conversation. The people in the study were strangers to each other and they were all same-sex pairs. They also took turns as both the listener and the speaker.

All the participants were connected to electroencephalography (EEG) machines which monitored the electrical activity of their brains through electrodes placed on their scalps. Sure enough, once the conversation began, the researchers were able to see that the pair's brainwaves fell in synch. The effect was so pronounced, in fact, that the researchers say they can now actually tell if two people are communicating simply by looking at their EEG results.

"To be able to know if two people are talking between themselves, and even what they are talking about, based solely on their brain activity is something truly marvelous," said team member Jon Andoni Duñabeitia. "Now we can explore new applications, which are highly useful in special communicative contexts, such as in the case of people who have difficulties with communication."

Indeed, the researchers feel that their work can have implications in a variety of fields including psychiatry, education, psychology and sociology. They feel it might be especially helpful in overcoming daily communication problems in our increasingly interconnected world.

"Problems with communication occur every day," said team member Alejandro Pérez. "We are planning to get the most out of this discovery of interbrain synchronization with the goal of improving communication."

To that end, the next step for the researchers is to conduct a similar study on people holding a conversation in a non-native language to see if the neural synchrony effect repeats itself.

While we might never achieve Vulcan-like psychic abilities, studies like these are indeed slowly unraveling the brain's complex role in our ability to communicate.

A technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, which involves the application of a painless magnetic coil to the back of the skull has already been shown to be effective in direct brain-to-brain communication, as well as allowing test subjects the seemingly superhuman ability of playing a video game without even looking at the screen.

Last year, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley revealed the way in which the brain stores words, creating a kind of neurological thesaurus of our grey matter. And earlier this year, researchers at Imperial College London used low-voltage electricity to synch up different brain regions, improving memory and raising the hope of treating neurological disorders.

So while we might not be Vulcan, research breakthroughs like these will certainly help us live long and prosper.

The team's has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: The Information and Scientific News Service (SINC)

7 comments
woz
Research of this kind can be described as "mind blowing" in more ways than one. The implications are potentially significant. It raises the question, for example, as to whether the "charlatan" mind-readers of old (and today for that matter) actually did (do?) have the ability they claimed, albeit through some sort of enhanced mental facility.
WilliamSager
As a old autistic guy I see this everyday. You humans just like all animals are preprogrammed to work in sync. Don't get me wrong, it has value in that it quickens the process of decision making at times.
Ralf Biernacki
In order for this synchronization to occur, the wavelength and phase, as a minimum, must be communicated somehow. The means of communicating it is obvious with TCS, but quite a mystery when it comes to human-to-human interaction, as investigated here. So is there something to telepathy after all? Is it electromagnetic in nature (unlikely, or it would have been detected already) or is there a non-EM resonance field, like that proposed by Dr. Sheldrake?
Helios
A bit sparse on the nature of the experiment. While touted as some magical mystery, I would conjecture its simply a matter of language processing in the brain... you've heard the expression "a meeting of the minds"... What happens when subjects are speaking a different language to each other? Or communicating with gestures and eye contact? Strangers vs friends or family? Brainwaves sync in these circumstances?
ljaques
We're all psychic to some degree, and we communicate in many more ways than audibly and gesturally. This is proof.
Nik
I've been telepathic since I was a kid. I use it rarely, as its like being the only one with a radio switched on, most of the time. In my teens I read an article that was titled, 'Is telepathy possible?' Until then, I thought it was normal.
Augure
Not surprising, but would have benefited from being a more thorough research: what happens when two persons are only looking at each other, what happens when they are kissing, what happens when they are observing each other from a distance, what about the variation of the synced brain signals depending on the tone or topic of the conversation, what about executing a collaborative task, what about correlation with other social factors like outfit, sex, age or anxiety, confidence etc...?