What is the context of this research?
This study investigates magnetoreception, a sense found in many animals but until recently thought to be inactive in humans. Recent findings show magnetic particles in the human brainand subconscious EEG responses to Earth's Magnetic Field changes, implying a potential magnetoreceptive ability. Interestingly, Aboriginal tribes' directional language also hints at their natural magnetoreception. Using sensory substitution, the research aims to awaken and enhance this ancient sense for better navigation and interaction with the environment, potentially transforming our understanding of human sensory capabilities and our species' evolution.
What is the significance of this project?
This research offers a unique opportunity to leverage human neuroplasticity and could redefine our understanding of the human sensory world and our species' history. From a practical standpoint, there are many applications for enhancing magnetoreception. For example, this sense would be beneficial for marine and aerial pilots, who often suffer from spatial disorientation. But in general, I think the amazing thing is that it really is present in each one of us, and if we are successful, each of us has the potential to unlock this new, but more accurately, ancient sense. It could open doors for a new dimension of spatial awareness; however, like imagining a new color, we cannot even imagine what such a sense would feel like.
What are the goals of the project?
Subjects will use a sensory substitution device during the training phase. This wearable device will give the wearer a sense of direction, and by the mantra of "neurons that fire together, wire together", we hypothesize that - over time - the brain will rewire itself to strengthen the connections to our dormant magnetoreception, as it has been proven to do in other similar scenarios. Before and after this training phase we conduct measurements; subjects' EEG response will be measured, as well as their ability to guess which magnetic field rotation occurred (in a setting where the effects of rotating on the magnetic field are simulated without actually having to rotate). We hypothesize a significant difference in the response before and after.
Meet the Team
Dr. Maarten H. Lamers
Academic researcher and educator with an interest in artificial intelligence, artificial creativity, robots, animal-computer interaction, hybrid bio-digital systems, and scientific playfulness. Public speaker on these topics. Also a game developer.
"I fully support Björns research crowd-funding initiative for the following (good :-) reasons:
- his hypothesis is truly new and potentially groundbreaking, as confirmed by Caltech’s research group
- only in Caltech’s lab can the experiment be done
- Björn has already approached and received funding from regular research/student funding agencies; but unfortunately, this doesn’t cover his costs
- I personally know Björn as a trustworthy and brilliant person and student." - Dr. Maarten H. Lamers
(MSc. Media Technology student, principal investigator)
After completing my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, I felt a desire to apply my knowledge to other domains of science, not restricting myself to computers, as I have always been interested in the "natural world" as well.
During my current Master's degree in Media Technology at Leiden University (Netherlands), I realized I was very interested in biology and in particular the brain, with a computational approach. When I stumbled upon the field of sensory substitution, I got hooked, as someone with an interest in the brain's adaptability, but no interest in the invasive surgical side of neuroscience.
Due to my horrible sense of direction, I got obsessed with the topic of human magnetoreception. Realizing sensory substitution might be suited to relearn this sense, I couldn't help but pursue the idea.