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Could Scientists Peek Into Your Dreams?
Date:4/4/2013

science fiction movies -- such as aliens from another planet finding a way to reveal our most private mental activities -- there are practical applications to the research, Kamitani said.

"There is evidence suggesting that the pattern of spontaneous brain activity is relevant to health issues, including psychiatric disorders," Kamitani explained. "Our method could relate spontaneous brain activity to waking experience, potentially providing clues for better interpretations of [brain activity]."

The research involved only three participants, who, over seven or 10 sleep "experiences," were awakened and asked for a visual report a minimum of 200 times each.

The authors gave an example of what a study participant said when awakened: "Yes, well, I saw a person. It was something like a scene. I hid a key in a place between a chair and a bed, and someone took it." Researchers then compared the participant's description to the functional MRI activity pattern before awakening. This pattern was put through a machine learning decoder assisted by vocabulary and image databases. The system's prediction identified a man, a key, a bed and a chair, which compared closely to the participant's immediate report.

The researchers chose to awaken the subjects in light sleep rather than in deeper "rapid eye movement" (REM) sleep solely to make the research easier to do. Kamitani said that because it takes at least an hour to reach first REM stage, it would be difficult to get sleep and dream data from multiple participants. "REM dreams may contain richer contents, so we are interested in decoding REM dreams in the future," he said.

Although this study doesn't help identify why people dream, it could potentially be useful in advancing understanding, Kamitani said. "I believe our method may provide a tool for investigating what is the function of dreaming."

As to why it is so hard to remember a dream minutes after waking up, Kamitani said he think
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