The words from my title were lifted from a Shakespeare Sonnet, and they orbit the issue I wish to share today. But in order to set the stage, consider this true story from my history.
I was about thirteen years of age, checking on what my mom was preparing for dinner, when there was sudden desperate knock at our front door. I skipped down the stairs and opened it to find a neighbour’s daughter, a little older than me. She seemed urgent with a message that she wanted to share. “Are your parents home?”, she asked with a very desperate tension in her face. “Yes”, my mom answered as she stepped quickly behind me.
The girl continued with a rapid, pressured speech, “one of your boys was hit by a vehicle about four blocks away while he was riding a bike!” My mother let our a shout to my father, and quickly they were racing for the car to rush to the accident. “Which boy was it?”, they asked as they jumped into the car. “It is one of the older twins”.
“It was Craig, my twin brother”, I exclaimed as I flipped a leg over my bike, ready to race to my brother.
“Stop”, yelled my dad from the drivers side window. “Stay here, and do not take your bike anywhere!”, he ordered. I watched the neighbour jump into the back seat and with a slam of the car door my parents sped away down the county road. I did not know what to think, but somehow I just knew he would be fine.
Later my parents returned briefly with only a few words, as a next door neighbour agreed to sit with us, my two younger brothers my sister and me. But before they headed off to the hospital I blurted out, without any doubts in my mind, “check his right leg, he has a bruise there”
My brother had to stay in the hospital overnight while some tests were carried out. He was conscious, and according to my parents, “he was lucky to be doing so well”. Then my parents asked me, “How did you know he had a bruise on his right leg? Did you go see him after we told you to stay at home?
“No”, I answered, ” I stayed home like you told me. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew”.
For me, it was just a fact. My twin brother and I have always been close. Often, we finished each others sentences. People were always confused about telling us apart. We laughed and talked the same. It was only over a course of years before we developed personal tastes and carved out a clearer distinction of habits.
I have revisited this event countless times, trying to unravel the mystery of my certain knowledge of my brother’s condition. There have been a few times since then, when I had a particular sense of his environment, though many miles away.
On one such occasion, I was spending time with a friend in Texas, walking around a mall when I stopped and turned to her and said, “My brother is at a ball game right now”. She would just look at me with a puzzled expression, and said, “Okay, so he said he was going to a ball game today?”. I replied, “No, I just sensed the crowd and smell of snacks in the air”. Later, I found this was truly the case. He had never shared this with me, and he rarely attended games. But when I had the chance later, I called to ask him, and he had confirmed my suspicion.
There have been many stories along a similar theme popularized by those claiming to have “Psychic Powers”. I have never felt there was enough validity in the “circumstantial evidence” of such “after the fact stories”. However, I could not explain this issue; I had no answers, even from my academic and professional education and experience as a Psychiatrist.
The nearest explanation I could come up with is through an article I had read once about particular moths that could pick out a specific mate over 1000 miles away from their location, just by their “smell like sense organs” . I was not sure about this study, but it was the only nearest explanation I had to a theoretical framework. So maybe, our primary senses are more acute and finely tuned than what we have yet discovered. It seemed too illogical to believe in the fuzzy pseudoscience of a psychic phenomenon.
This brings me to the point of this article, with which I would like to share. I read a fairly recent study about an interesting topic known as “brain-to-brain interfaces” (BBIs). Here is an excerpt.
” A TMS device creates a magnetic field over the scalp, which then causes an electrical current in the brain. When a TMS coil is placed over the motor cortex, the motor pathways can be activated, resulting in movement of a limb, hand or foot, or even a finger or toe…”
“..We now know that BBIs can work between humans too. By combining EEG and TMS, scientists have transmitted the thought of moving a hand from one person to a separate individual, who actually moved their hand. The BBI works best when both participants are conscious cooperators in the experiment. In this case, the subjects were engaged in a computer game).
“..The latest advance in human BBIs represents another leap forward. This is where transmission of conscious thought was achieved between two human beings in August last year. Using a combination of technologies – including EEG, the Internet and TMS – the team of researchers was able to transmit a thought all the way from India to France. Words were first coded into binary notation (i.e. 1 = “hola”; 0 = “ciao”). Then the resulting EEG signal from the person thinking the 1 or the 0 was transmitted to a robot-driven TMS device positioned over the visual cortex of the receiver’s brain. In this case, the TMS pulses resulted in the perception of flashes of light for the receiver, who was then able to decode this information into the original words (hola or ciao)”.
Sounds like a something Hollywood dreamed up, doesn’t it?
So not only could thoughts be transmitted under experimental conditions, so could actions, even to the point of controlling the behaviour of animals.
“..that a human could control the tail movements of a rat via BBIs”
What this article presents is how one subject in a remote location can directly influence the actions of another subject in different location through changes in thought content. This seems too incredible to believe. Yet, because we all share some structural similarities within our brains, I can see how this can actually be plausible. First we need to consider what we know know of “mirroring neurons”.
“..Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observe in primate species.4
“..In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.6
One way to address this issue is to consider what is common to all of us, which already influences us beyond our “active knowing”. A case example can be understood in the context of yawning. If we are around others who begin to yawn, before long we began to yawn. The same is true for laughter. If we are around others who are laughing, it becomes contagious. Others will start to giggle and laugh, just due to the presence of someone laughing. Such a design is important for us socially, though explanations are lacking.
So, if we have a similar foundational and interactive framework, isn’t feasible that thoughts could be conveyed to another person, especially those more similar or familiar to us, under the right conditions, having a very common reference point? On a more spiritual plane, how much does this finding play a part in our prayer lives? When that loved one is suddenly dealing with a trauma, how often do we find ourselves “thinking of them” and feel the need to pray for them without knowing why. Since I believe we were designed as social and spiritual beings, does it not make sense that such a mechanism must be in place? Maybe we need to rethink those moments and reach out to them when this happens. Maybe that is the optimal act of good to perform, given this design. After all , we are designed for more than we understand and we do have a great designer.
This study stirs up many questions for me about the implications and utility awaiting us. It may also serve great potential for promoting skill set learning, as well as providing more effective means for therapeutic alliance, which is yet to be revealed. We live in such an incredible era!
Pleasant thoughts coming your way, dear reader. (Can you sense it?)