April 5, 2013
Scientists Find Way To Spy On Your Dreams
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers say they have found a way to turn some of the fantasies seen in the movie Inception into a reality.
Scientists say they discovered a potential way to decode dreams, enabling them to predict the content of the visual imagery being experienced by the dreamer based on neural activity recorded during sleep.
The team created decoding computer programs based on brain activity measured while study participants were wide awake and looking at certain images. Then, the team asked subjects who were awakened from the early stages of sleep about the dreams they were having before being disturbed.
The researchers used an MRI to monitor brain activity of the participants and polysomnography to record the physical changes that occur during sleep. They compared evidence of brain activity when participants were awake and looking at real images to the brain activity seen while they were dreaming. They were able to reveal that it may be possible to use brain activity patterns to understand something about what a person is dreaming about.
"Our current approach requires the data of image viewing and sleep within the same [person]," Yukiyasu Kamitani, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science, told HealthDay. "But there are methods being developed for aligning brain patterns across people. It may become possible to build a decoder that works for different people with a small amount of data for calibration."
Kamitani said there is evidence that suggests the pattern of spontaneous brain activity is relevant to health issues, including psychiatric disorders.
"Our method could relate spontaneous brain activity to waking experience, potentially providing clues for better interpretations of [brain activity]," Kamitani said.
He said that their method may help provide a tool for investigating what is the function of dreaming.
"There is evidence suggesting that the pattern of spontaneous brain activity is relevant to health issues, including psychiatric disorders," Kamitani told HealthDay. "Our method could relate spontaneous brain activity to waking experience, potentially providing clues for better interpretations of [brain activity]."
Scientists revealed last year that symbols found in dreams could help provide perspective into people's mental health problems. The researchers of this study believe that a dream analysis could be investigated for clinical purposes.
“There are many hundreds of other images and symbols that arise in dreams, many of which have meanings associated with them — such as the image of a beating heart (meaning ℠charity´), or the ouroboros, which is a snake eating its own tail (℠eternity´). There are symbols associated with fear, or virility, a sense of power, the need for salvation, and so on,” Dr. Lance Storm, a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide´s School of Psychology said in a statement. “In Jungian theory, these symbols are manifestations of the unconscious mind; they are a glimpse into the brain´s ℠unconscious code´, which we believe can be decrypted."