Helps Scientists Better Understand How Mind Works
April 13, 2017
Recently hundreds of people volunteered to be guinea pigs for a mind
experiment. The execution was simple. All the participants had to do was
watch a movie while wearing a headset that reads their response in real
This type of experiment has been done before, but never at this scale
"…where we can look at thousands or in this case, 1,000 people's brain
activities as they're all involved in the same activity," said
computational neuroscientist Tim Mullen.
Five hundred people in Los Angeles and the same number in New York
watched the movie, MindGamers at the same time.
It is no coincidence that MindGamers explores what happens when the
human brain is connected to a computer. In the movie, physical skills
could be transmitted to a quadriplegic and allow him to move again. But
the technology also opens the door to mass-mind control in the film.
The results of the real world experiment, along with the answers to a
personality questionnaire filled out by every participant, will help
scientists better understand how the human mind works among various
personality and demographic groups and how they react when presented
with the same situation.
The headset allows neuroscientists to read the electrical activity
inside the brains of a mass collective of people. Cloud technology
records how the focus of the audience changed during the course of the
"If you look for a hot color, hot colors mean that there was a big
increase in focus," Mullen said as he shared the collected data on the
big screen immediately after the movie ended.
"There is a peak here," he said, as a ring appeared on the screen.
At that point in the movie, the audience was watching a scene in which a
woman was about to jump off a building.
To further illustrate the technology, Mullen put two different colored
rings on the big screen and asked the New York audience to focus on
mentally pushing the yellow ring outward, and the ring started moving in
"As this is changing it's related to how the entire group is changing
their focus state," explained Mullen.
Mullen says the future of brain-computer interface technology could lead
to brain-to-brain communication. Research also is being conducted of
plugging the brain into the cloud, and from there to an
Where it leads
"I think that sooner or later we're eventually going to move to this
point where everything is going to be linked to some big server. We're
going to be interconnected regardless of the country we're living, or
citizenship. We're all going to be integrated into something bigger.
Humanity is going to be united," said experiment participant Andrey
But not everyone is as optimistic.
think humans will exploit it. I mean you're basically, we're losing
control of our privacy," said experiment participant Adda Wong.
"I'm fearful of the fact that where this could lead? Whose hands hold
the power to this kind of information and data? But it's very exciting
to see the wavelengths of everyone's brain connection," said experiment
participant Charnelle Martin.
"We know there are great outcomes that can come from this type of work,
but it's a yin-yang world that we live in so for every sort of positive
capability that you create, there likely is a nefarious or negative
outcome and we have to be conscious about that as we develop these
things," warned Todd Richmond, Director of Advanced Prototype
Development at University of Southern California Institute for Creative
Mullen will be analyzing the data collected from the experiment for
weeks to come, as research continues into the brain-computer interface.