The exact science behind why people dream is still a mystery, but recent research using computer technology now brings us closer to understanding dreams.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Image (fMRI) scans can essentially “see” our dreams by revealing visual images our brains have while we are dreaming. What’s more, a computer is able to predict what you are dreaming about while asleep based upon your brainwave activity, according to a new study out of Japan.
Published in the journal Science, the Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep report now gives more objective evidence of dreams.
“We know almost nothing about the function of dreaming,” said study co-author Masako Tamaki, a neuroscientist at Brown University. “Using this method, we might be able to know more about the function of dreaming.”
A key finding that of the research is that scientists believe that our brains use the same mental circuitry to interpret visual images whether we are awake or asleep.
Computers Can Now Predict Dreams Sleep Study Details
To arrive at their findings, Yukiyasu Kamitani, senior author of the study and of ATR Computational Laboratories in Japan, along with his colleagues from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, invited three volunteers to agree to sleep inside a fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a procedure used both in the research and clinical worlds to measure brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow.
The researchers examined the volunteers’ brain activities when viewing pictures of streets, cars, and other normal everyday scenes both while awake and in a light sleep. The volunteers were awakened from their sleep and were immediately asked what they say. Most volunteers reporting seeing everyday scenes, including a house or a street.
This process went on for 200 awakenings, after which, the researchers found that their computer technology process was roughly 60 percent accurate in predicting what the sleeping volunteers had just seen before waking up. These findings suggest that the brain circuitry works similarly whether awake or asleep.
The hope is that the findings of this fresh study will aid technology in not only helping derive a better understanding of what goes on when people have nightmares, but also aid in treating psychiatric patients who experience hallucinations with their disorder.
As a related story, read how Guided Imagery for Sleep helps people improve their quantity and quality of sleep.
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