Researchers have managed what they said was "the
world's first decoding" of night-time visions, the subject of centuries of
speculation that have captivated humanity since ancient times.
In the study, published in the journal Science, scientists
at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in Kyoto, western Japan,
used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to locate exactly which part of the
brain was active during the first moments of sleep.
They then woke up the dreamer and asked him or her what
images they had seen, a process that was repeated 200 times.
These answers were compared with the brain maps that had been
produced by the MRI scanner.
Researchers were then able to predict what images the
volunteers had seen with a 60% accuracy rate, rising to more than 70% with
around 15 specific items including men, words and books, they said.
"We have concluded that we successfully decoded some
kinds of dreams with a distinctively high success rate," said Yukiyasu
Kamitani, a senior researcher at the laboratories and head of the study team.
"I believe it was a key step towards reading dreams more
precisely," Kamitani said.