A study in Japan, with Senior author Yukiyasu Kamitani of Japan’s ATR Computational Laboratories in Kyoto and colleagues from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, revealed that fMRI scans can actually portray the imaged that we see in our brains when we are sleeping. The study followed two German scientists from 2011, Martin Dresler and Michael Czisch of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, who used lucid dreamers to help prove that the brain works similarly while asleep and awake. The use of lucid dreamers, or individuals who are aware of their dreams to the point that they can control them, helped conquer the barrier that spontaneous dream activity cannot be controlled in an experiment.
Want to understand lucid dreaming better? Check out this video from the Discovery Channel.
Kamitani took it a step further. Using the fMRI instead of the MRI, like using a video instead of a picture, measuring function instead of structure, the team could see how the awake brain compared to the asleep brain.
They found that when their three volunteers woke from a light sleep, taken inside the fMRI, the computers were 60% accurate, after 200 tests, in predicting what they would claim to be dreaming about.
While studying people in a deep sleep is more difficult because the participants are having trouble falling asleep for a number of ours inside the fMRI machine.
So, why bother with this study? What can it offer us other than a cool phenomenon to see into our dreams? Actually, knowledge of the brain and it processes images can help treat hallucinations in psychiatric patients.
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