We are maybe one step closer to finding out what happens in our head while we sleep. Japanese scientists claim they can “read” your dreams using brain scans, which can decode the night-time visions with 60 percent accuracy.
The “dream-reading” machine was designed in Kyoto, Japan by scientist at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories and is in fact a computer that analyzes the data from the brain scans. But is there really a way to unlock the secrets of the unconscious mind – a subject that have captivated religions and cultures since the dawn of humanity? According to the research, this is absolutely possible but requires not some hocus pocus and magic cards, but complex laboratory equipment. Yukiyasu Kamitani and his colleagues conducted an experiment on three adults as they slept, or more exactly as they took naps. They scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while simultaneously recording their brain waves via electroencephalography (EEG).
Whenever the brain wave patterns changed and showed earliest stage of sleep, the researchers woke them up and asked them to describe their visual experiences. Then the participants were left to sleep again. This was done between seven and ten times a day in strict time blocks of three hours. The whole procedure was repeated 200 times for each participant. Every image in the dreams was recorded, counted and grouped. Repeated elements such as “man” or “tree” were divided into around 20 categories, different for each participant. Then the recordings were analyzed and the researchers started to associate distinct patterns of brain activity with the dream categories. In order to gather more explicit data, the neuroscientists showed various pictures from the Internet to the sleepers while monitoring their brain activity.
In the second stage of the experiment, the specially designed computer program successfully predicted the dreams of the participants with around 60 percent accuracy. Co-author Masako Tamaki, a neuroscientist at Brown University said this method could be a way to learn more about the function of dreaming. Of course, a complete decoding, or reading of dreams is still only a theme of the sci-fi literature, but the method can be applied to a number of medical and welfare services, according to Japanese Government.
The study was in fact a part of a huge government-led brain research, and according to government officials, the Science and technology Ministry spent $35 million on neuroscience studies for the fiscal year ending on March 31.Although Kamitani’s experiment was able to decode dreams in a way science never did before, it analyzed only those images seen right before waking up. It can only “read” a small part of our dreams. Deep sleep, however, where we see the most vivid and complex dreams, remains a mystery.