Are you one of those people who has trouble remembering their dreams? I know some people who swear they don’t dream at all because they are never able to recall any details about the previous night’s adventures in the mind (though of course, this is impossible). Now, Japanese scientists have done the unthinkable in a project which sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie — they have learned how to record your dreams by measuring your brain activity while you sleep.
The data that is collected can then be plugged into an algorithm that is capable of reconstructing your dream so that it can actually be played back for you when you’re awake. Basically, these scientists have invented a dream reading machine; once this technology is perfected you may never have to worry about forgetting your dreams again, because you can simply play them back to yourself when you wake up in the morning. Incredible.
This amazing breakthrough is possible thanks to a fairly straightforward idea — when we visualize various objects in our minds, our brains generate neural patterns that can be linked to what we are visualizing. If you are imagining a house, for example, your brain generates a pattern that shows up every time the house is visualized. An algorithm can then be utilized that ties the data from a brain scan to the applicable correlated images. And just like that, the images in your brain can be reconstructed.
Keep in mind that this research is still in progress and is fairly rudimentary. So far, researchers have claimed to correctly interpret the dream about 60% of the time, which is still a pretty big deal when you consider that this is even possible at all.
Participants in the study were asked to hook themselves up to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine, then to fall asleep inside an fMRI machine. Scientists then used the EEG readings to determine when the participants began to enter the dreaming phase of sleep. They were then abruptly woken up and asked to recall what they were dreaming about; this process was repeated about 200 times for each participant.
Scientists then condensed this data and found that certain common types of objects from the dreams of the participants could be connected with brain patterns that were recorded by the fMRI scans. Then, using an Internet search, they looked for images that roughly matched the objects that were seen in the dreams of the participants. This information was then entered into a learning algorithm that was able to refine this model even further. Amazingly, this algorithm was then able to utilize the data recorded from the participants’ fMRI scans to assemble videos from the images found on the Internet, basically creating a movie for each dream.
While this new technology is far from perfected, over time it will improve as the algorithm continues to learn. This research could finally lead to a discovery on interpreting and understanding dreams, and perhaps provide some answers about why it is we dream in the first place.