Teleporting May Not Be Possible for Our Bodies, but Our Brains Are Ready

We now know how our brains would handle teleportation.


Teleportation machines are thought to work much like a fax machine — only instead of paper it’s humans, and the original copies are destroyed once the travelers make it to their final destination. Human teleportation, of course, is still a hypothetical — we’ve managed to send out single photons and trapped ions, but so far no mad scientists.

But this mere inconvenience wasn’t enough to stop researchers from wondering, what if? In research published Thursday in the journal Neuron, neuroscientists from the University of California, Davis studied how the brain might react if it were to experience teleportation. Lucky for us it doesn’t seem like teleportation would throw our psyche into cosmic dread — it appears our brains would keep chugging along, fully aware that they had been transported.

Prior to this experiment, the scientists knew that when rats navigate a maze, the mammal brain experiences a rhythmic oscillation — but they weren’t sure if oscillation happens because it’s a helpful tool for navigation or if it’s just a related function of movement. They also knew that rhythmic oscillation happens when humans travel around a virtual landscape. Based on these principles, the researchers used electrodes to measure the intracranial hippocampal activity with an electroencephalogram test (EEG) while three patients explored a virtual maze via a computer screen.

Apparition -- the wizarding teleportation.


Within the maze, patients were instructed to choose a path and go into a virtual store. Inside the store they came across a teleporter that would take them a “short” distance and another that would go “long” — back to the center of the maze.

“Critically, teleportation allowed patients to experience movement to a known location in space in the absence of any sensory feedback because they remained seated on a hospital bed and viewed a black screen during this time,” writes the research team.

During the teleportation the brain continued to oscillate, but the rhythm reflected a perception of distance traveled. This led the researchers to conclude that the memory and learning process controls neural oscillations — your brain understands it’s experiencing some form of speed and distance, even if you’re only moving through a pretend teleporter.

The man behind the teleportation, Professor Arne Erkstrom. 

UC Davis

As a control, they had the participants look at a black screen, but did not have them experience virtual movement. No strong oscillation happened — the patients’ brains knew they weren’t experiencing simulated movement.

The study comes with a few caveats. Namely, this was only a study of three people — but each person did demonstrate the same result. They were part of a different study of patients who experience a severe form of epilepsy, who had electrodes implanted into their skull to figure out when seizure activity begins in the brain. From this group of patients, three decided they’d be down for the teleportation experiment as well.

Technology may not be ready to teleport our bodies — but our brains are ready.

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