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fMRI based study could eventually lead to tools to record dreams either therapeutically or recreationally

FMRIs -- scans which measure brain activity based on blood flow -- have shown promise in "mind reading"matching images or words that conscious individuals were thinking of. A Japanese team has taken that premise and expanded it in an exciting direction, creating an fMRI-based method to record the images seen while dreaming with 50 percent accuracy.

I. Storing Dream Images

The study was performed at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in cooperation with the Nara Institute of Science and Technology and National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.  The senior author was Professor Yukiyasu Kamitani, a neurology and informatics professor at the Nara Institute and University of Electro-Communications.  Other co-authors include Brown University post-doc Masako Tamaki, Nara Institute associate professor Yoichi Miyawaki, and first author Tomoyasu Horikawa, a Nara Institute Ph.D. student.

Professor Kamitani told BBC News in an interview on the work, "I had a strong belief that dream decoding should be possible at least for particular aspects of dreaming... I was not very surprised by the results, but excited."

fMRI scan
A new Japanese study uses fMRI scans to record images seen while dreaming.
[Image Source: SPL]

The study involved three volunteers, who were put inside fMRI scanners.  When the subjects started to fall asleep, they were woken up and asked to recall what the last thing they remembered seeing was.  Images were often surreal, ranging from bronze statues to ice picks; other times they were every-day items.

After over 200 trials per volunteer, the researchers had a database of scans and images.  They then grouped the images into common categories.  Houses, apartments, skyscrapers, hotels, and stores, for example were classified as "structures".

II. Predicting, Recording the Dreams 

The researchers then showed the volunteers pictures of the selected categories and recorded their activity via fMRI.  What they found was that the wakeful visual activity in the brain often closely corresponded to the dreaming activity.

In a second round of tests, researchers matched fMRI scans of sleeping patients with their new database of dream image categories and then woke the patients up, asking them what they saw.  They were able to correctly guess the dream object 60 percent of the time.

fMRI dream database
The team's dream database can predict dream images correctly 60 percent of the time.
[Image Source: Science/ATR]

With work ongoing to miniaturize MRIs and with personalized databases of fMRI images, this technique could eventually be put to use to create a "dream recorder".  Such a machine would have both therapeutic and recreational promise.  Much work would need to be done in order to personalize the recorded images -- say to show not just that you saw a man, but that you saw your father.

However, the work by the ATR team opens an exciting new era in fMRI "mind reading" -- dream reading.  A study on the work has been published [abstract] in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science.

Sources: Science [abstract], BBC News

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By eagle470 on 4/7/2013 9:42:08 AM , Rating: 4
What they found was that the wakeful visual activity in the brain often closely corresponded to the dreaming activity.

So how does my dream about my guiding a train of refugees while we are being hunted by people riding panthers and I'm using cooking spices to hold them at bay relate to the real world?

RE: Wierd....
By mmatis on 4/7/2013 10:13:23 AM , Rating: 5
Like most "research", they made sure they only looked at subjects that would give them the results they wanted. Which is why they surely did not analyze any geeks...

RE: Wierd....
By StevoLincolnite on 4/7/2013 11:05:02 AM , Rating: 3
Or hormonal teenagers.

RE: Wierd....
By JKflipflop98 on 4/9/2013 11:16:42 AM , Rating: 2
That's actually a great idea for a control group. You already know what they're dreaming about.

RE: Wierd....
By geddarkstorm on 4/7/2013 12:40:47 PM , Rating: 2
When you sleep, it's been found in rodent studies that the brain will reactivate in a similar order the neurons you used while you were awake to do important tasks or process important information. For example, the location responsive neurons tracked while a rat is running a maze will reactive in the same procession while a rodent is asleep, as if it were running the maze again. It's probably part of memory consolidation, or the system playing "safetly" (since it's decoupled from your motor system while you sleep) with different pathways.

This study -trained- its subjects brains on a set of images, and then recorded the same areas of the brain being active while they slept. In short.. this study kinda cheated. They were guaranteed their study participants would likely be evaluating that information in their sleep, and so it was more a test of the detection equipment than "listening in on sleep".

RE: Wierd....
By geekman1024 on 4/7/2013 9:50:57 PM , Rating: 1
they are only interest in making you dream what they want you to dream (or what you want them to make you dream). They are not interest in what is in your wild-dream (unguided dream). They are dream maker, not dream reader.

I wonder how long until someone will use this tech to brainwash/memory-manipulating others?

RE: Wierd....
By geekman1024 on 4/7/2013 9:51:35 PM , Rating: 2
oops, misread the title.

RE: Wierd....
By kattanna on 4/8/2013 1:56:59 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how long until someone will use this tech to brainwash/memory-manipulating others?

well hopefully the next version of total recall will not be as bad as the recent remake

RE: Wierd....
By Flunk on 4/8/2013 7:49:23 AM , Rating: 2
That was my first thought as well. Who dreams about a constant single object? My dreams often involve doing silly tasks and trying to solve impossible problems.

RE: Wierd....
By ppardee on 4/8/2013 3:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
I find it interesting that you used the phrase "at bay" when talking about defending yourself with cooking spices.

You could have peppered the panther perched people, but you decided to hold them at "bay". Bay leaves are used in killing jars. While the overt meaning of the sentence implies that you didn't want to harm them, the fact that you choice such a deadly spice to describe your action hints and your hostility towards your pursuers. Also, the passive aggressive behavior described above suggests that you are trying to hide your hostility from everyone around you. The fact that you are the leader of an outcast group speaks volumes as well. And finally, using spices (and specifically calling them out as COOKING spices, as if there are other types) as your chosen weapon suggests that your masculinity is overshadowed by your feminine side (cooking is generally seen as a woman's activity in our culture).

Clearly, the meaning behind this is that you're gay and in denial.

RE: Wierd....
By AntiM on 4/8/2013 4:48:02 PM , Rating: 2

To see a train in your dream, represents conformity and go along with what everyone else is doing. You have the need to do things in an orderly and sequential manner. In particular, if you see a freight train, then it refers to the burdens and problems that you are hauling around. To dream that you are on a train, is symbolic of your life’s journey and suggests that you are on the right track in life and headed for the right direction.

Panther Dream Explanation — The panther symbolizes a double-cross, a perfidious but foolish man or perhaps, an oppressor, a hunter, hunting equipment, and traps, or a shaky and unstable individual who shows neither hostility nor friendship. It could also refer to someone whose breath stinks.

I think it all means that you are repressing your homosexual tendencies.

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