Grrr… Waking from a dream, instantly forgetting it is one of the slight handicaps we suffer as intelligent beings, surprisingly it doesn’t seem to appear on any of the interwebs Most Annoying lists – unlike No 12 our ability to eat with our mouths close – which also eeks me no end! Japanese scientists have solved the first problem, they’ve invented a machine that predicts images dreamt during sleep.
In science Visual Imagery during sleep – dreams, or at least the pictorial part of dreams – has to-date been elusive to any objective analysis.
Japanese researchers however have taken a novel new approach to decoding our subconscious thoughts during our none waking hours, utilising machine learning models they’re now able to predict the visual content of our dreams. The new study – Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep – published in the journal Science and the findings could pave the way to prevent nightmares ::::
The Japanese researchers call it ‘decoding’ the process of translating brain scans into pictures. The papers co-author and researcher Masako Tamaki says participants were required to go to sleep in an MRI scanner, albeit briefly.
“We awakened the subject every few minutes and then we asked what they were seeing immediately before we awakened the subject,” Ms Masako said.
The participants would explain the dream, describing things like how they saw a key in a place between a chair and a bed. Over time, that process allowed the computer to learn exactly which picture corresponded to which brain activation pattern.
“It was so amazing to know that people were dreaming many kinds of imageries and so we collected more than 200 dream reports for each subject,” Ms Masako said.
By the end of the study, researchers had gleaned hundreds of scans and were surprised at the variety of images participants dreamt.
“They see many kinds of things. Sometimes it has a story, but sometimes it’s scenery but the scenery sometimes moves like a camera,” Ms Masako said.
“It depends on the dream, people dream many kinds of things.”
Ms Masako says the more often than not, the machine has an accuracy rating of 60 or 70 per cent.
She says she hopes the research will eventually aid the prevention of nightmares.
“We know almost nothing about the function of dreaming until now, even if we dream every day,” she said. “We believe that these findings will be able to make it possible to find what the function of dream is.
“Also this finding could be important in a clinical field, for example people suffering from nightmares, and we might be able to find a solution for those people.”