Seeing Other’s Dreams: Brain Games Part II

Ever wish someone else could see what your were dreaming?  Now advances in imaging technology have brought that dream closer to reality.  Working in Kyoto, Japan, Professor Yukiyasu Kamitani used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to peek at sleeping participants’ brains. fMRI’s record changes in brain activity by recording increases in blood flow to the stimulated areas.  As such, Professor Yukiyasu Kamitani recorded fMRIs of volunteers as they slept, recording which areas of the brains demonstrated increased blood flow and therefore increased activity.   He then compared the sleeping scans to scans of the same volunteers while they were awake and being presented with visual stimuli.  The images shown to awake participants were drawn from an inventory of things they reported dreaming as the researchers woke them – up to 200 time – throughout their sleep cycles in the first step of the experiment.  When the scientists compared scans, they were able to identify the broad categories of participants’ dream content by tracking which brain regions”lit up” during dream sleep.  By taking verbal report from participants after waking, the team assessed a 60% accuracy rate for their method of “reading dreams.”

(fMRI scan of human brain. Image Credit psychcentral.com)

(fMRI scan of human brain. Image Credit psychcentral.com)

Whats next for Professor Kamitani?  He hopes to run similar experiments when patients are in deeper sleep and to change targets to more complex processes like color and emotions.

Read more about the experiment and future direction at the BBC and Wired.

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