Jello and the EEG machine.

My brother just sent me this:

“A bowl of lime Jell-O, when hooked up to an EEG machine, exhibited movement which is virtually identical to the brain waves of a healthy adult man or woman.”


I, of course, don’t believe this, but does anyone know of such a silly study? Is there a joke here that I am no seeing?

I’m not sure if this is what he had in mind, but in the book “Science and the Paranormal” (edited by George O. Abell) there is a section devoted to the old claims that plants could respond to music, the loss of a leaf, the death of another plant, etc. The evidence was the result of medical scans taken of the plants. I think that they used “lie detector” devices, attached to the plant’s leaves with electrodes that were spread with conductive contact jelly. They may have used EKGs and EEGs as well, but I’m not sure.

In any event, when you use human test equipment to run tests on plants, which don’t have the same physical features as human beings, you’re going to get weird results. Just because you see something other than a flat line doesn’t mean that the plant is responding. Those apparent “brain waves” or “skin galvanometric response” could simply be (and in many cases apparently was) caused by the drying out of the contact jelly, or changes in humidity, or whatever.

So I can easily believe that hooking up Jello will give you a non-zero signal, but for all I know, it can be your overly-long wires picking up 60 cycle, or the local radio station.

As CalMeacham said, it’s easy to pick up extraneous signals induced by 60Hz interference, radio signals, etc. on an EEG or EKG machine-- so easy, in fact, that it’s a challenge to get rid of them when designing the machine, since the actual desired signals are so small.

You’d probably pick up even more with the signal leads out of the jello, and just dangling in the air.


What is jello? Water and sugar. Conductive, last I checked. Conductive things pick up background radiation. So the EEG has been connected to a strangely-shaped antenna. No wonder it’s giving a reading. I think connecting the electrodes to a piece of sheet metal would give even more of a reading. That does not mean the metal is thinking, just that it’s conducting background radiation as electricity.

this is interesting – two days ago, my uncle (who is a doctor) was talking about whether or not an EEG would prove useful in showing specific brain damage, and he said, “Well, not really. You could hook JELL-O up to the machine and you’d get something.”

I think the point is that the EEG doesn’t tell you much from just one reading. It’s more important to monitor the changes in activity once you have a fair idea of normal for a particular patient. This is true in probably a lot of cases. ‘Normal’ temperature for humans is considered 98.6, but I’m usually a bit colder than that. So I know that if my body temperature is 99 degrees, I likely have a fever. For someone else, that might be their normal everyday body temperature.