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It’s Possible to Read Someone’s Dreams

Scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in Kyoto, Japan have joined an MRI scanner with a complex pattern-recognition computer program to record and interpret people’s dreams.

Scientists used fMRI technology, which is slightly different than standard MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).

This is reportedly the first time anyone has been able to decode nighttime dreams. This could possibly usher in a new way to study the brain in order to uncover some of the secrets of the unconscious mind.

How Did They Do It?

The researchers monitored people when they were sleeping. They watched brain activity on the fMRI to find which parts of the brain were most active during sleep. They woke the people up and asked them what images they were seeing, and they recorded it and mapped the images to the active parts of the brain. They did this hundreds of times.

They then created a database and grouped all of the dreamers’ images into broad categories. After that, they had the people look at pictures of those images while they were awake. The researchers mapped the areas of the brain that became active according to the fMRI scans. Then a computer algorithm matched the patterns of brain activity with those general object categories.

After a while, the researchers could predict what people were dreaming about with a 60% accuracy rate just by viewing the fMRI scans. The accuracy was even greater when it came to some common items, like “men” or “books”.

How Do MRIs Work?

Regular MRIs are magnetic scanners that exploit the fact the nucleus of hydrogen atoms behaves like a tiny magnet. So, the machine uses a magnetic field as well as precisely-timed pulses of radio-frequency magnetic waves to manipulate the hydrogen nuclei so that they emit a signal (the MR signal). This signal allows them to be mapped and turned into a high-resolution image.

fMRI, which stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging, is slightly different. fMRI tracks changes in blood flow in the brain that follow brain activity. It’s able to pick up on these subtle changes because of the oxygen content of the blood. When brain activity increases, blood becomes more oxygenated, and the fMRI picks up on that. The stronger the oxygenation of the blood, the stronger the signal that can be picked up by the fMRI.

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