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Scientists decode contents of dreams
They are our some of our most private and also easily forgotten experiences, but scientists have now worked out how to tell what we are dreaming about.
The Japanese researchers managed to decode the dreams of a group of volunteers and pinpointed when they were dreaming about such things as cars and women. They scanned the brains of three male volunteers as they slept to monitor changes in activity which could be related to the content of their dreams. They also monitored electrical patterns in the men's brain waves, so that they could wake them up whenever the signals indicated that they had begun dreaming. Each time the participants awoke they were asked what they had dreamt about before being allowed to go back to sleep. The process was repeated across several days until 200 reports had been collected from each volunteer.
Researchers reported that while some of the dreams were out of the ordinary -- for example a discussion with a famous actor -- most involved more mundane experiences from everyday life. From the dream accounts they picked out 20 of the most commonly occurring themes, such as "car", "man", "woman" and "computer", and gathered pictures which represented each category. The participants were then asked to view the images while their brains were scanned a second time.
By comparing the second set of brain activity data with the recordings made just before the volunteers had been woken up, the researchers were able to identify distinctive patterns in three key brain regions which help us process what our eyes see. They also found that activity in a number of other brain regions with more specialised roles in visual processing, for example in helping us recognise objects, varied depending on the content of the dreams. Finally, they built a computer model which could predict whether or not each of the selected themes was present in the participants' dreams.
Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, who led the study, told Nature News: "By analysing the brain activity during the nine seconds before we woke the subjects, we could predict whether a man is in the dream or not, for instance, with an accuracy of 75 to 80 per cent."
Speaking at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference last week, the scientists said their findings indicate that patterns of activity in certain visual areas of the brain are the same whether we are awake or dreaming. Dr Katamani added: "Our study shows that during dreaming, some brain areas show activity patterns similar to those elicited by pictures of related contents. "Thus, using a database of picture-elicited brain activity and a pattern recognition algorithm, we can read out, or decode, what a person might be seeing from brain scans during dreaming.
"In this study we were able to decode only basic object category information, but the method could be extended to decode more dynamic and emotional aspects of dreams."
originally posted by: AdmireTheDistance
This isn't exactly recording dreams. This is simply analyzing brain signals while the person is dreaming, and comparing them to data gathered while awake. They had to get a series of baselines from each individual before in order to even be able to do that, otherwise the data gathered by the sleeping individual would be meaningless.
It's interesting research, sure, but isn't "dream recording" in any way, shape, or form...
originally posted by: yuppa
So something else Astro said is true. They can record your dreams.
By 2050, and likely sooner, you will be able to buy a BCI device that records all your dreams in their entirety. This will be done in one of two ways. One method would be to use distributed nanobots less than a micrometer in diameter to spread throughout the brain and monitor the activation patterns of neurons.
By this point, cognitive science will have advanced enough to know which neural activation patterns correspond to which sensory experiences. This has already been done with cats (using electrodes, not nanobots), where researchers led by scientist Garrett Stanley were able to extrapolate what a cat was seeing merely by monitoring the neurons of its visual cortex. Here are some images they obtained:
The next steps will be to increase the resolution, add monitoring of emotions, sounds, and smells, and make it safe for human use. An alternative route, if nanobots are still not ready for commercial deployment by 2050, is to have minimally invasive surgery where tiny holes, no larger than a grain of sand, are drilled in the skull. (Small price to pay, I’d say. And if drilling holes in the skull, even holes too small to do any damage, bothers you, then wait for the nanobots.)
Electronic nanofibers could be routed through these holes from a port on the outside to neurons throughout the brain. The holes could be protected by a plastic membrane, ensuring that no foreign particles could pass through them into the brain. The access ports on the scalp would be compatible with a BCI headset designed to monitor activity in specific neural groups and selectively stimulate neurons according to a program.
A major challenge, of course, would be to get FDA approval for such a device. The therapeutic and practical benefits of a high-resolution BCI device are so large that if it can be shown not to cause any damage or negative side effects to its user, approval seems likely.
If the BCI device offers input to the brain as well as recording output, then dreams could be played back too. A Dream Machine would let us show our dreams to others. If we know which neural activation pattern corresponds to which perceptions (sight, sounds, etc.), it’s not a huge leap to selectively stimulate neurons to produce customized dream scenarios, or even enter the dreams of others in action. (In ascending order of technological difficulty.)
Manipulating our dreams… how many thousands of years has humanity waited for this? Here’s a frequent kind of background I see in my dreams:
…other things I see include gigantic academic complexes, cliff networks, green hills overlooking sunny blue bays, and many others. I’m sure you can imagine hundreds of scenarios from your dreams, many of which seem so fleeting. But it won’t necessarily be that way forever.
The possible societal effects of a Dream Machine would be immense. Dream recordings and recreations would offer an opportunity to:
1) Validate or refute Freudian theories about the connections of dreams to subconscious or conscious psychological states.
2) Create a “science of dreams” or oneirology, that organizes all available dream data, breaks up dreams into categories, studies which type of people get which dreams, etc.
3) Create a “dream entertainment industry” where people choose to have customized dreams, with features like greater visual complexity or richness of colors, or even massively multiplayer dreams.
4) The possible rise of “dream celebrities” — people who freely upload their dreams for others to examine, followed by a positive reception. People might lead double lives — boring accountant by day, world-famous lucid dreamer by night. Some people might even get paid for their dreams.
5) Uncover the hidden world of dreams that barely rise above our subconscious. People tend to have several dreams per night, but remember only one or two. We experience these dreams when they happen, our brain just neglects to transfer the information content into long-term memory. (The reasons for this are likely evolutionary — we would get confused about reality if we remembered too many of our dreams.) Imagine if we could record all these dreams and play them back at will. With enough storage density (molecular memory), you could even store your dreams on a pendant around your neck.
6) Convert dream-worlds into real-worlds; amusement parks based on dreams, or utility fog banks that quickly morph in response to a given personal or collective dreamscape. Or vice versa: turn real world places and people into dream objects.
7) In general, blur the line between dreams and reality by making dreams more tangible, manipulable, interactive, customizable, and social. Bring dreams “in from the cold”. Make dreams as mysterious, colorful, productive, foreign, erotic, or mundane as you want them to be.
Considering these possibilities, the first thing that makes me nervous is that people would institute inappropriate regulations over the use of this technology. For instance, some groups of people might hate the idea of removing some of the “mystery of dreams” (like how modern biology ostensibly dispels some of the mystery of life, or modern physics dispels some of the mystery of nature) through technology. As someone who is socially liberal, barring sufficiently negative externalities, I’d advocate light regulation on this technology. Heavy regulation should be saved for more dangerous technologies such as synthetic biology and molecular nanotechnology.