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Dream contents deciphered by computer

Similar brain patterns emerge when seeing an object and conjuring it during sleep

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A computer can decode the stuff of dreams. By comparing brain activity during sleep with activity patterns collected while study participants looked at certain objects, a computer learned to identify some contents of people’s unconscious reveries.

“It’s striking work,” says cognitive psychologist Frank Tong of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who was not involved in the research. “It’s a demonstration that brain activity during dreaming is very similar to activity during wakefulness.” 

The work, reported April 4 in Science by Japanese researchers led by Yukiyasu Kamitani of Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, adds to somewhat scant knowledge of how the brain constructs dreams, says Tong. The research could lead to a better understanding of what the brain does during different states of consciousness, such as those experienced by some coma patients.

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