How to communicate telepathically using brain-computer interface technology
Currently, we are living in a three-dimensional world where we can sense things around us by touching, smelling, feeling, hearing, and seeing. However, the way we use devices and communication are all still two-dimensional. When texting someone we still have to put in that extra effort of moving our fingers. This is one, out of plenty, of the areas that brain-computer interfaces can come in handy with.
In this article, I will give an overview of how our brains work and how we can use brain-computer interfaces to create innovations using our brains.
- Inside the Human Brain
- Issues that can be solved with BCI’s
- Introduction to Brain-Computer Interfaces
- Silent communication using brain-computer interfaces
- What can we do with BCI’s in the future
- Key Takeaways
Inside the Human Brain
The human nervous system is a system inside our bodies to perceive, understand, and act based on the world around us. The human nervous system is vital for humans to survive.
The nervous system is separated into two categories
- Central nervous system
- Peripheral nervous system
The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system is like the chief officer, it’s the one giving the orders to the body using the peripheral nervous system. It uses neurons to send and receive information from the muscles, glands, organs, and other systems.
The peripheral nervous system is used to transfer information from the central nervous system to the rest of the body.
Getting back into our focus, let's jump into what the brain is mainly made up of.
The brain is mainly made up of neurons, which control our body and how we act. Neurons are the largest population of cells in the nervous system that specialize in communication. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in our body. Neurons can vary in shape and size according to their function. However, all neurons have three common essential components.
Dendrites are structures that receive signals from other cells. Dendrites can get these signals via receptors. Small molecules get stuck on these receptors allowing for the signal.
Axons are structures that connect the dendrites and synapsis kind of like a bridge. These axons have myelin, which helps as insulation.
Synapse: Neurons communicate through axon-dendrite and sometimes dendrite-dendrite connections but these connections don’t touch. A chemical synapse consists of a small gap between two neurons, with specialized proteins at both the presynaptic and postsynaptic membrane. Processes activated by these electrical signals at the presynaptic membrane of the end of one axon result in a downstream cascade leading to the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Well, how do these neurons communicate? Once neurons are attached the electric signal will send out the neurotransmitters, which then bind to another neuron's dendrite. This causes the channels to receive positively charged ions from the synapse. If the action potential created is enough the electric signal will be sent. What do we mean by enough action potential?
Neurons work with a method called the “all or nothing law” there is a threshold for the electric potential that must be reached. If the action potential passes the minimum value it goes through if not it doesn’t.
Let’s talk a bit about how this magnificent and complicated organ we have comes about?. Brain development starts as an embryonic cell. As we grow a neural plate of cells folds in half, which later becomes our entire central nervous system. This tube forms bulges that develop into the three brain divisions: the prosencephalon (forebrain), mesencephalon (midbrain), and the rhombencephalon (hindbrain), which form the brain.
Parts of the brain
- Forebrain: the most complex, main part of our brain
- Midbrain: important for natural reflexes
- Hindbrain: important for coordination, balance, and balance
Now that we know a bit more about the brain I think we have a better understanding of how measuring this complex system can bring incredible innovation, as nearly everything in our bodies ties into our brain.
What can we do with Brain-Computer Interfaces?
Using brain-computer interfaces we will be able to interact with any machine/technology with just our brain.
Neurogaming is an area that BCI’s are being used for. With BCI’s you can play video games without using any sort of controller making the game 100x more immersive. NeuroSky store Brain Fighta, an open-source EEG game
Art is just one of the examples that prove the amount of impact BCI’s can have. BCI’s aren’t only going to be used in scientific and technical fields but also creative areas. Manipulating water with EEG, EEG Visualization tool
Similar to fingerprints your brain activity can also be a form of authentication. Brain-Based Authentication
We can use BCI’s for some of the most important mental issues: anxiety, sleep improvement, ADHD, PTSD, etc. Most biofeedback works by changing abnormally slow or fast brainwaves into the normal range. Alpha-Theta Brainwave Neurofeedback for Vietnam Veterans
BCI’s can also be used for many serious health issues and diagnostics: Alzheimer's, Epilepsy, concussions, etc.
Now, how do BCI’s work exactly?
Introduction into BCI’s
Brain-computer interfaces work in three steps
- Collecting brain signals
- Interpreting brain signals
- Outputting commands to a machine based on the brain signals
There are three types of brain-computer interfaces
These methods are categorized based on how deep the collecting system is placed in your head. The non-invasive collecting method is when the device, used to collect the signals, is placed on the scalp. This method does not require any sort of surgery it is as simple as wearing a hat. The semi-invasive method is when the device is placed on an exposed surface of the brain. Semi-invasive collecting is a bit riskier, but it is more accurate at collecting signals than non-invasive. Invasive collecting is when the device is placed directly inside the brain. As you can see there is a pattern here the deeper we go the riskier and more accurate it gets.
The device used for collecting the brain signals also changes depending on the collecting method we want to use. If we were to use a non-invasive method we can easily use an EEG(Electroencephalography) cap to collect the signals, which doesn’t require any surgery. However, if we were to collect data semi-invasively we need an EcOG(Electrocorticography) device. Let's look a closer look at the difference between these devices.
ECoG vs. EEG
- high spatial resolution and signal fidelity. High spatial resolution is basically like the quality of an image 720p 1080p.
- resistance to noise. When collecting data there is a lot of noise that could happen. For example, when you blink your brain will light up creating an extra signal you may not want in your recording.
- lower clinical risk and Robustness over a long recording period
- higher amplitude
As the device gets more invasive the accuracy of the recording gets greater as well.
How does this device record brain signals?
When recording signals the brain constantly generates electric signals using neurons which we can measure using a BCI headset. However, the skull and skin of the head are very good electrical insulators, making it difficult to record from individual neurons. But when a big number of neurons do the same thing at the same time, it is possible to see the activity with electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp.
Signals that are possible to measure with a non-invasive include
- Action potentials along the axons connecting neurons
- currents through the synaptic clefts connecting axons with neurons/dendrites
- currents along dendrites from synapses to the soma of neurons
Okay now that we know how we measure our brains let's look more into the items we need to measure our signals.
What is needed for a BCI?
- Electrodes — usually made of silver chloride
- A/D converters
- Recording Device
We understand that there are electric signals flashing in our brains but how do we collect these signals? This is where an electrode comes in. an electrode is an element in a semiconductor device (such as a transistor) that emits or collects electrons.
There are two types of electrodes: wet and dry. wet: using a saline solution of gel. Conductivity is increased because the electrical distance is minimized. Dry: more convenient and easier to use, but can lose higher frequencies
The signal picked up by the electrodes is far away and attenuated by the different layers it has to travel. For this reason, an amplifier is needed to bring the microvolts to a range that can be digitized. The signal is sent to an amplifier through a cable measuring 1–2 meters. Unfortunately, the cables can act as an antenna and pick up signals, which would interfere with the EEG signal and cause noise to be amplified. Some “active” electrodes include a small pre-amplifier within the electrode, to avoid this noise interference. Unfortunately, they are quite large and expensive and might not be appropriate in some situations
The A/D converter will convert the amplified signal from analog to digital form. The bandwidth for EEG signals is limited to approximately 100Hz, making 200Hz enough for sampling EEG signals.
It can be a computer or similar device, which will record, store and display the converted signal.
Silent communication with brain-computer interface technology
Now let’s get into the fun part. How can we use BCI’s to communicate telepathically?
Ever since the 1980’s silent communication has always been a trending topic. From using silent communication in more tactile areas like uses for the military to using silent communication to help make paralyzed people communicate more easily; You can’t doubt that silent communication would be awesome. Even though full-on silent communication is currently impossible, three researchers did some experiments on the plausibility of silent communication: Toward Using Brain Signals.
From each electrode location, they used ECoG signals between 500 and 2,500 ms after the visual stimulus was shown and extracted spectral amplitudes, gives amplitude at each frequency, from those signals within the 8–12, 18–30, and 70–170-Hz frequency bands, as well as
a time-domain feature, called the local motor potential, which is short-term electrical signals generated in nervous and other tissues by the summed electrical activity of the individual cells, . In each trial, a Naive Bayes classifier was used to determine which of the four vowels and which of the four consonant pairs were present in the spoken or imagined word. The average accuracies for decoding vowels and consonants in both spoken and imagined words were significantly above the level expected by chance (25%). Particular conditions exceeded 55%. This reflects the significance of classification accuracy relative to chance level.
In conclusion, currently, we are not able to silently communicate in a very efficient and easy manner. However, there might be a chance soon. Brain-computer interfaces seem like a worthwhile technology, which could fix a lot of problems and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for brain-computer interfaces.
Key Takeaways 📌
- We can use brain-computer interface technology to cure diseases, have more immersive entertainment, make our lives more efficient, and become more productive humans.
- Brain-computer interfaces track neurons using electrodes
- There are many different types of hardware you can use to create a BCI system depending on what you’re doing.
- The possibilities are endless with brain-computer interfaces.
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