Dream reading: Scientists in Japan decode sleeping minds

RESEARCHERS have found a way to "read" people's dreams for the first time, according to a breakthrough study published in the journal Science. A team of scientists from Japan's ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology used MRI scanners to work out what images people were seeing in their dreams as they fell into sleep. Seconds after the scientists' three volunteers began to doze off inside the machines, they were woken up by researchers, and asked to describe what they had seen. Scientists recorded every detail of the images they mentioned, from bronze statues to ice picks, and the experiment was repeated more than 200 times for each participant. The answers were then compared with the brain maps the MRI scans had produced and scientists built a database for each participant based on the results. Researchers then scanned volunteers again while they were awake and looking at different images on a computer. The results showed what parts of their brains were active when they looked at each picture. When they next scanned the volunteers during sleep, they found they could predict what participants were dreaming about 60 per cent of the time. Although the experiment did allow researchers to "read" some dreams, ATR's Professor Yukiyasu Kamitani, who headed-up the team, explained there was a long way to go. "I believe this result was a key step towards reading dreams more precisely", he told AFP. "[But] there are still a lot of things that are unknown." Each volunteer had a different decoding pattern so their database of MRI scans and their meanings has to be generated for each participant. Neurologist Dr Robert Stickgold, of Harvard Medical School told Science the experiment was "probably the first real demonstration of the brain basis of dream content". He added: "Up until this moment, there were no grounds on which to say we don't just make up our dreams when we wake up". The team now hope to research deep sleep, where it is thought the most vivid dreams occur. Source: The Week UK

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