How Close Are We To Recording Our Dreams?

The human brain is the world's most impossible machine. It contains immense processing power that science hasn't even begun to fathom, and recreating it is near impossible. But instead of building a computer that matches the power of the human brain, how close are we to recording what comes out of it at a conscious or subconscious level?

We see an alien landscape, ripped apart by years of war between two civilisations more advanced than humans could ever dream of. A noise in the distance arrives just as the ground starts to shake. The sensation wakes the woman from her dream to a console beaming in her face orange text. "Dream Recorded", it reads. She drags the file from the Dream Recorder and saves it for later analysis.

That's the opening scene from the (ill-fated) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie, set in 2065. Will we have to wait that long to be able to record our dreams that easily?

In the last five years we've seen some amazing leaps forward in the science of brain visualisation and dream recording.

Japanese and American researchers as recently as 2009 were able to synthesise images from the mind's eye and display them on a screen.

Japanese researchers presented subjects with an image, usually a white shape on a black background before asking them to visualise it in their mind. An MRI machine hooked up to a screen was able to show what they were seeing in their minds, and with a little bit of static, the program was able to synthesise what people were thinking about visually.

As soon as it's presented to a screen, you can capture it using any number of devices from DVD recorders through to VCRs if they still float your boat.

While the Japanese advances are impressive, what American researchers from UC Berkley under Psychology Professor Jack Gallant were able to do is simply astounding.

Subjects were presented with complex images rather than monochromatic shapes, and scientists recorded what they all saw. The imagery they captured, while it's a little blurry, is simply astounding. People were filling out the scenes with things they had already stored in their memories while continuing to visualise the images they were presented with in vivid colour.

These discoveries are right on the edge of science, but right now, it's not entirely feasible to think that you can roll-over one morning after having a particularly wonderful dream where you flew over mountains, or spent a night with your favourite Hollywood actor, and tap your dream recorder to save it for later viewing.

The images recorded are still incredibly blurry and they're based entirely on showing people an image and visualising what they're seeing while they're conscious. Interpreting images out of someone's head while they're unconscious with no reference point to what they're looking at would be infinitely more difficult.

What might be easier right now is mastering what's known as lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming is the theory that says you can bring yourself into a state where you are aware of the fact that you're dreaming while still unconscious.

Yesterday we brought you the best in sleep tech, and one of those gadgets was a pair of lucid dreaming goggles you can make out of a few LED lights and a pair of safety glasses.

Here's how it works:

The goggles are set to go off two hours after you've fallen asleep, when it assumes you're deep in REM sleep and dreaming. Once two hours have passed, the red LED lights flash inches away from your eyes. They don't wake you, but they do intrude into your dream state where, if you train, you'll be able to pick up on them and then control the dream, rather than have it control you.

Where will we be in 2065? Will we be able to download our consciousness into a dream recorder and have our loved ones look back on our fondest memories as we saw them? Thanks to science, it's more than a pipe dream.


Comments

    I just wanted say that I really like Spirits Within

      +1 :)

        +1. Spirits Within is awesome. Who cares if it damn near bankrupted Square.

          Haaa.. saw you on the box this morning.. or was it yesterday? Soon you'll be signing up for Scientology with Tom...! ;)

            I was on ABC News Breakfast yesterday talking about DNSChanger...not sure where the scientology reference comes in though...

              A veiled reference to your acting ability...never mind it missed the mark anyway..:)

    Who needs porn when u can just watch your wet dreams! Clearly it turned you on so watch it again!!

    Not quite about recording dreams rather real life experiences, but this article's inspired me to re-watch Brainstorm, 1983 flick starring Christoper cow bell Walken.

    What about the opposite? Something like Google Glass that plays back stuff we have recorded during the day as a dream? Could be awesome for students.

    I want my first recorded dream to be on VHS....

    Just cos

    I've seen this before somewhere. Might have been here.
    I hope they are making some progress with this.

    I can recall being made to deliberately pass out when I was about 15 using simple chest constriction. The several other people with me had hardly even changed position when I awoke. Even though only seconds had passed I could immediately recall having had about 6 or 7 dreams. The amount of space required to record even one dream fully in high quality would likely be astronomical...

    Imagine if we actually have hundreds of dreams per night at faster than real time.......

    Should I not mention the time needed to watch these dreams.....and some over and over and over.....?

    In fact I hope they are never able to in my lifetime...............so very little magic remains......

    Using a computer to interpret the neurological patterns of what someone is literally seeing is a LOT different that interpreting something that exists solely as an abstraction inside a human mind.

    In order to record what a human mind is perceiving within itself, you need to fully understand every neurological connection within the brain. Because no two brains are identical, this "dream recorder" will need to be able to emulate/replicate the connections of the dreamers unique patterns.
    Computationally, this is almost mind blowing in its complexity, however advances in computing (possibly analog computing) might make this feasible.

    Alternatively, what could be possible (and likely) is recording the synaptic states in the brain and then feeding them back into the same brain at a later time (ie. like a dvd in a dvd player). This would use the original brain to decode the original recording back into a perception similar to the original dream. This method could be used to experience dreams over and over, so long as the original brains neural pathways stay roughly the same way they were when the recording was taken.

    reminds me of the movie "Until the end of the World" with Sam Neil.

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