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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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Primitive
By havoti97 on 4/8/2013 10:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds to me what they did was show a few pictures to a test subject while he's awake, record the fMRI patterns during that time while he's looking at those specific pictures. When he's sleeping/dreaming, they do an MRI and compare those patterns to the ones obtained during the awake state and try to predict what he was dreaming, based on the pre-recorded patterns. Obviously, they can only "predict" based on the patterns they have. Also, these patterns will differ in each individual - so there one's own brain fMRI pattern don't necessarily match another subject's for the same object. I hardly call this decoding dreams.




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