At the ATR Computational Neuroscience labs in Kyoto a team lead by Yukiyasu Kamitani have started to develop a method of scanning a person’s mind whilst they sleep to determine what they are dreaming about. Using functional neuro-imaging to scan and record the brain waves of three individuals’ brains with an electroencephalography (EEG) machine, they have started to build up a baseline of what the person is actually dreaming.
With the technology behind the research already in place, the research now focuses on a way to find and decipher what the different brain waves mean. People are traditionally very bad at remembering their dreams -- if you’ve ever woken up from a great dream and tried to tell anyone about it, you’ll know how hard it is the get the details right. What that means in research terms is that the researchers behind the study are having to continuously wake their participants when they detect dreaming to ask what they dreamt, to start to build up a bank of what they call “dream reports”
The reports generally reflect our everyday experiences, with a few exceptions like talking with a celebrity. From those, they’ve managed to pick up on 20 categories of images most commonly observed; such as ‘Male’, ‘Female’, ‘Car’, ‘Computer’ etc. To then reinforce the data, the team have opted to show pictures representing each category to participants while awake In order to scan their brains for similar brain wave patterns.
Kamitani has said that using the model, the team can now ‘read’ the kind of categories within the dream to an accuracy of around 75-to-80%. Recording our dreams, then, is still a
long way off – think of this technology as the Morse Code of dream deciphering rather than binary data – but nevertheless it’s a good start.
The research is set to continue on to looking at rapid eye movement (REM) stages of sleep, a more challenging area as it takes longer to enter and exit those stages, but Kamitani believes that the work will be worth it to get a better understanding of the function of dreams. Question, how long before we can start entering each others’ dreams, a la Inception?
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