VIDEO: Could We Record Our Dreams?
Have you ever wondered why we dream? Or better yet, have you ever woken up and tried to make sense of a crazy dream you had, or perhaps even had trouble remembering it? Imagine if we could one day record our dreams to watch or study later.
We spend about six years of our lives sleeping or dreaming, which often stirs up bizarre imagery and stories. Yet we quickly brush these memories away when we wake each morning. See, brain waves, including those associated with dreams, are a form of electromagnetic radiation; every time you think, thousands of neurons fire up and omit brain waves that oscillate at between 10 and 100 cycles per second. This allows us to measure brain activity and interface the data with electronic instruments, like a polygraph test for dreams.
Could we potentially use this data to visualize what we dream? No device exists yet that can interpret the brain waves produced during our dreams, but that hasn’t stopped scientists from trying to build it! This mind-reading technology began using an MRI scanner. Inside the MRI machine, subjects were shown simple black and white pictures. The software then searched for patterns in the subjects’ brain activity that corresponded with other known images. For example, the application would record what activity in the brain looked like while seeing the letter Z. After building up sufficient pattern data, the software was then able to recreate or predict images based on the neural activity of common brain waves.
More complicated studies started monitoring patients during their sleep and building learning algorithms to interpret and generate their next dreams! While these trials were by no means perfect, according to AsapScience , it was clear that the algorithms’ predictions were better than chance, and often aligned with patients’ accounts of their dreams.
All of this was made possible by recording people’s brain waves while they slept. As this technology continues to improve, we inch that much closer to one day accurately recording our thoughts and dreams and, unfortunately for psychologists like Sigmund Freud, discovering why we dream in the first place!