Have you ever wondered what a person from the Middle Ages might think if they could spend a single day with you? He or she might think that you’re some sort of sorcerer as they watch you dash off emails, chat on your cell phone, or Skype with someone on the other side of the globe. These are all magical forms of communication that for us have become as natural as talking face-to-face.
Yet, despite all these conveniences and advances in communication, people are always looking for more direct ways to exchange information. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just think something and have your ideas or emotions instantly understood by others? Most of us, though, think that telepathy — the ability to communicate with others without speech or any other physical form of communication — is either the stuff of fairy tales or a gift bestowed on a lucky few.
But then again, maybe we’re all telepathic. You’ve probably had the experience of thinking of a person just moments before they call. If you’re a parent, maybe you’ve had the experience of “just knowing” when something is wrong with your kid, even if they are miles away. Identical twins have probably told you, “We always know what the other is thinking.”
While these anecdotes have become commonplace, there’s not much evidence that telepathy really exists. Also, it’s difficult to set up convincing experiments to test telepathy, as such events tend to defy repeatability and hypotheses based in scientific fact. Thus, the topic of telepathy remains only on the fringe of scientific investigation, along with the search for alien life forms and the aquatic ape hypothesis. Nevertheless, various forms of brain-to-brain communication have been observed scientifically on many occasions and under circumstances that cannot be dismissed as mere statistical accidents.
The phenomenon that so many of us have experienced — knowing who’s going to call on the telephone before they actually do — has been confirmed to exist in several studies dating back to the mid-20th century. In a recent study published in the Journal of Parapsychology, researchers observed 63 normal subjects (not psychics or mediums) trying to guess which of four callers was going to be calling. The callers were remotely located friends or family of the subject, and, based on random chance, researches expected the subject to be correct 25 percent of the time. Amazingly, the subjects were correct a full 40 percent of the time, which the researchers described as “hugely significant statistically.”
Another oft-repeated experiment is called the Ganzfeld telepathy experiment, wherein the test subject is isolated with halved ping-pong balls over their eyes in a room bathed in red light. The person keeps their eyes open while listening to white noise played through earphones. After a half hour of this “sensory homogenization,” a “sender” in another room is given randomly chosen visual information, usually a photo or video clip, that they then try to mentally transmit to the subject. The subject describes any mental images they are receiving to researchers. After the session, the subject then attempts to identify which of four choices best fits the mental images they were receiving. Some of these experiments have not shown clear evidence of telepathy, but a majority of them have. Interestingly, the subjects have better “hit” rates when they are emotionally bonded with the sender, have high artistic or creative abilities, or believe they have psychic capacities.
As much as rational scientific minds may prefer to disregard this, it seems something real is producing these telepathic experiences. Somehow, brains have the ability to communicate with other brains in ways that are not yet fully understood. There is no concrete, scientifically valid explanation for how this is happening, but researchers have sought to account for this.
Some think that the answer might lie in quantum physics, not biology. In the subatomic quantum world, nature behaves in ways that defies standard Newtonian physics, and it might be that brainwaves somehow access this “supernatural” world. In that realm, a particle can coexist in more than one place in time and space, what Einstein described as spooky action at a distance.
In an attempt to explain how telepathy might work, researcher Deborah L. Erickson wrote in the journal NeuroQuantology: “At the quantum particle level, all separateness disappears and everything is connected. Schrodinger described this process as ‘entanglement.’” She goes on to suggest that brainwaves may be “entangled” in a similar way, which allows a kind of commingling of thoughts unimpeded by time and space.
Researcher Frederick Myers notes that telepathic connection across people is always strongest between those with a strong emotional connection. Thus, his hypothesis is that telepathy and love go hand in hand. If you find yourself finishing your lover’s sentences, or you know when your kid is hiding something, you could be said to have telepathic communication with them. As Myers describes it, “Love is a kind of exalted and unspecialized telepathy.” The explanation for this may lie in the “heart brain.” For a while, neuroscientists have known that the human heart has specialized cells that seem identical to neurons. It could be that the heart has a yet undetermined role in our emotions. The heart is also a bioelectric organ, as is the brain, and it could be that these impulses are connecting to other people in ways that we, as yet, do not understand.
For centuries, humans have described emotional connections arising from the heart, even though neuroscientists insist that our brains are the true source. Those “heart strings” that bind us to one another may serve as invisible communication cables that allow us to know each other’s hearts and minds in unfathomable ways — at least when we are open to doing so.
Science at the moment is far away from proving the existence of telepathy or explaining how it works. One day, we may take it for granted that brains can talk to each other without the need for language of any kind. Scientists are already harnessing brainwaves to “talk” to other brains, and we may have technology in the future that expands whatever telepathic abilities happen to be natural to us. In one experiment, researchers were able to send signals over the Internet from one person’s brain to control another person’s hand motions to successfully navigate a video game. It is not too crazy to think that one day we may be “thinking” our emails and be able to “call” our kids to dinner with silent, mental commands.
Considering this aspect of the brain’s ability is like glimpsing a distant frontier of brain science. Some scientist, in fact, would rather not look because the facts are still a bit too fuzzy for their comfort. It is highly likely that the ultimate explanations will lie in areas that we are not yet able to observe fully — in the quantum world or undetected energetic fields that emanate from our hearts and minds. But, if we can get to the root of this brain ability we call telepathy, it is likely that we will be peering into a world of possibility once relegated to the realm of fantasy, anticipating potentials for technologies that today seem stranger than the strangest science fiction.