For the first time, dreams are read by a brain scanner

Scientists have used brain scanners to read people's dreams.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

We are a step closer to entering the reality set forth in the Hollywood flick Inception, where technology was used to invade dreams.

Scientists have measured dream content using a brain scanner and found that dreams activate the brain in the same way movements do when a person is awake, according to a new study.

For the first time, German scientists used a brain scanner to read the content in people's dreams. Scientists at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, along with a team from Charité hospital in Berlin, measured brain activity during dreaming, using functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning and near-infrared spectroscopy.

In the experiment, the researchers studied dreams of six subjects who claimed to be lucid dreamers. (Lucid dreamers can tell when they are dreaming). The subjects were asked to lay inside a scanning machine and become aware of their dream. Then the participants were asked to voluntarily dream of clenching their right hands and then switch to their left hands.

The results showed that dreaming of clenching their fist activated a region in the brain that is responsible for real-life actions. It's been a challenge until now to measure specific brain activity with dream content. The main difficulty, of course, is only subjects can tell if they are dreaming or not. That's why lucid dreamers were chosen for the experiment.

The scientists looked at two dreams by two of the subjects, according to New Scientist. The subjects had to sleep in the scanner, reach rapid eye movement sleep, and enter the lucid dream state.

While the study size wasn't large by any means, this is a proof-of-concept study to show that it is possible to read a person's dream. The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

“Our dreams are therefore not a ‘sleep cinema’ in which we merely observe an event passively, but involve activity in the regions of the brain that are relevant to the dream content,” Max Planck's Michael Czisch said in a statement.

Recently neuroscientists have been able to dig deeper and even made a movie of what images our minds create when shown movie clips.

But what is the societal impact of mind reading tools making their way out of the lab, and into the household or courtroom? Would you be comfortable with your significant other being able to know what you're dreaming about? Well, that's a thought to sleep on.

via Max-Planck-Gasellschaft and New Scientist

Related on SmartPlanet:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards