Using imaging tools and computer analysis, Japanese scientists could determine the images appearing in the dreams of a group of test subjects with 60% accuracy. In essence, the researchers were able to read dreams from the participants’ minds!
A group of researchers at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology attempted to find a connection between the visual experiences in dreams and data provided by MRI scans of a human brain at rest.
The level of detail is far from what we see in science fiction films such as “Inception” but experts describe the results as “stunning”, says British newspaper The Daily Mail.
“This is probably the first real live demonstration of brain function as it relates to the content of dreams,” said neurologist and sleep expert Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.
He said that although the creation of a machine that can completely read and record dreams is still far off, the implications of the technology in the more distant future suggests we will one day be able to design a machine that can “read” people’s minds while they are awake.
In the first stage of the experiment, called the Dream Catcher, up to three volunteers slept until the electroencephalogram, a device for detecting electrical activity in the brain, they were connected to indicated that they had entered deep REM sleep.
At this point, participants in the experiment were woken and asked to describe what they had dreamed of. The process was repeated until each participant had described at least 200 dreams.
The descriptions were analyzed and divided into twenty categories of key themes (“men”, “women”, “tools”, “book”, “cars”, etc.) for each participant.
The researchers then compared the distribution and dynamics of the areas of brain activity obtained by using functional magnetic resonance imaging, with a set of keywords in the stories of the subjects. As a result, using self-learning computer programs, scientists have created a system that can analyze tomography data to describe the visual content of dreams.
On the basis of this compiled database, they were able to determine what a person saw in their sleep 60-70% of the time. These numbers are much higher than in the case of a simple coincidence.
The researchers believe that their findings will help isolate specific brain activity linked with mental images not only during sleep but also during wakefulness. In the future, they are going to try to decipher dreams during other phases of sleep.
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