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July 05, 2015

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg shares vision of telepathy

Facebook CEO says virtual reality holds promise of immersive brain-to-brain communication

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a bold prediction in a recent online Q&A with users of the social networking site.

In a discussion about the future of Facebook, Zuckerberg said that people will eventually be able to send each other full sensory and emotional experiences directly using technology, LiveScience reports.

"We used to just share in text, and now we post mainly with photos. In the future video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR [virtual reality] will become the norm."

Brain-to-brain communication can be theorized through an understanding of the electrical and chemical signals accessible to us through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalograms and implanted electrodes. Zuckerberg suggests that a virtual reality can become a "playback" method for decoding such signals.

Neuroscientists say not so fast, however, citing previous experiments that have attempted to transmit signals from the motor cortex between brains using electrodes and Internet. The signals that can be sent and received, at this point, are far from what Zuckerberg suggests will be possible.

Andrea Stocco, a research scientist at the University of Washington, said the signals we can process at this point are very crude, adding that further experiments would require a mass of wires that would bring considerable risk. To extract impulses from an adequate number of cells to decode complex thoughts would necessitate inserting hundreds of electrodes into a brain, which wouldn't be likely to gain approval from any institution even with volunteers.

Still, Stocco said Zuckerberg's idea isn't out of the realm of possibility with adequate work and research. The fact that it can be imagined as an extension of current technical capabilities is a promising sign.

Read more at LiveScience.