We like to call many things “mind control,” but the truth is that we don’t understand the mind well enough to control it. We can try to manipulate people, but it really comes down to them and their free will; they still have to choose an action. And we’ve now found a way to mess with that free will while you sleep!
Researchers at Paris’ Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution recently decided to mess with rats while they slept. In the hippocampus, both rats and humans have cells called “place cells.” Essentially, if you think of a place, those cells will fire. This is true whether you’re conscious and looking for that great burger place, or whether you’re dreaming that you are nude in that burger place, nobody seems to notice or care, and also everyone is Kanye West except you.
That’s a common dream, right? Anyway, the point is, place cells can be active regardless of your conscious state. So, just to see what happened, researchers fired a reward signal as a “response” to thinking about certain places. When the rats woke up, they made a beeline for that place, even if they had no particular reason to do so.
The good news is that you need to have electrodes implanted directly in your brain to have this happen, and that rat brains and human brains might be different enough that this wouldn’t work. The bad news is that we’re working on ways to stimulate the brain without implanting electrodes, so seeing if you can do this on humans is a matter of when, not if.
On the other hand, if all advertising becomes direct attempts at mind control, that will at least have the benefit of getting rid of annoying commercials on TV. We just hope our dreams have short ad breaks.