The Japanese are a set of people that don’t fit in this planet. They’re probably from another Galaxy. Those guys can invent near impossible stuff.
In the 1950s–60s, several promising sleep studies were published. Yet, after many unsuccessful attempts at sustained progress, hope faded and scientists moved on to other areas of research. It wasn’t until 2000 that Robert Stickgold’s groundbreaking study revived this field.
Stickgold is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and a pioneer in the field of dreams, as it were. He found that 63% of participants who played Tetris during the day saw images from the game in their dreams at night. This discovery established a new way of thinking about dreams, and what role they may play in learning and memory.
“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”
In 1941, Humphrey Bogart delivered those famous lines in the classic film The Maltese Falcon. More than 70 years later, neuroscientists are still trying to figure out just what that stuff is. Dreams, however, largely remain a mystery. They’re as elusive to us as they are to the people who study them. But recently, a team of Japanese researchers announced a potential breakthrough: they’ve developed a program that can detect dreams. They found a way to see what people are dreaming about. In a study, they were able to categorize what people saw in their dreams with 60 percent accuracy, according to media reports.
“We know almost nothing about the function of dreaming,” Masako Tamaki, a neuroscientist at Brown University, told Livescience. “Using this method, we might be able to know more about the function of dreaming.” Tamaki is a co-author of the study.
The study was conducted in Japan by Dr. Yuki Kamitani, from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan, and team. The experiment included three participants who were asked to sleep inside an fMRI machine.
The researchers monitored participants’ brain activity and woke them up just before they entered the REM phase of sleep. This helped the researchers focus on dreams that were seen early in the sleep, instead of waiting for the late REM sleep dreams.
The researchers then developed a visual imagery decoder that could find patterns in brain activity. The visual imagery was recorded from men when they were awake and were watching a video that had hundreds of images. The decoder could identify and predict the image from the brain activity readings.
“This is probably the first real demonstration of the brain basis of dream content,” said Dr. Robert Stickgold, a neuroscientist and dream expert from Harvard Medical School in Boston, who told the journal Science that the latest study on dreams was “stunning in its detail and success”.
Yea, stunningly scary, that’s what it is!
Though, the machine is still in its young stage and researchers can’t see color, action or emotion in the dreams. So don’t go hoping to watch a 3D version of you going off a cliff. Nonetheless, experts are seeing huge potential in the machine for helping researchers understand how dreams work.