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Dreams can be 'predicted', scientists say

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Woman sleeping

© Rex Features / Voisin/Phanie

Scientists have revealed that reading dreams could become a reality.

Conducted in Japan, experiments were carried out to see if dreams could be predicted by using brain scanners to map neural activity.

The tests involved three volunteers who were asked to take naps in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.

The experiments found that the scientists were able to identify what were seen in dreams with an accuracy of 60%.

Dr Yuki Kamitani, from the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, monitored the brain activity of sleeping test subjects for signs of hallucinations.



When the volunteers seemed to be dreaming, they were woken up and asked to describe their dreams.

Having collected around 200 dreams from each participant, repeated examples such as "tree" or "man" were placed into approximately 20 categories. For example, one volunteer's dreams of "ice pick", "key" and plunger" were grouped in an "implement" category.

Recordings from the scans were then examined for patterns that took place at the same time as the categories.

The collected data was put into a computer programme to connect with the brain activity 'signatures' associated with each dream image.

In a new round of dreaming, the programme was able to successfully predict what type of image the volunteers were dreaming about with 60% accuracy.

Man sleeping

© Shutterstock

Sleeping man picture via Shutterstock



The team explained in the journal Science: "Our findings provide evidence that specific contents of visual experience during sleep are represented by, and can be read out from, visual cortical activity patterns shared with stimulus representation."

The scientists hope that the research will "lead to a better understanding of the functions of dreaming".

US neuroscientist and dream expert Dr Robert Stickgold, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, described the study as "stunning in its detail and success".

He said: "This is probably the first real demonstration of the brain basis of dream content.

"Up until this moment, there were no grounds on which to say we don't just make up our dreams when we wake up."

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