Brain imaging study: A step toward true 'dream reading'

Activity in the motor cortex during the movement of the hands while awake (left) and during a dreamed movement (right). Blue areas indicate the activity during a movement of the right hand, which is clearly demonstrated in the left brain hemisphere, while red regions indicate the corresponding left-hand movements in the opposite brain hemisphere. © MPI of Psychiatry

When people dream that they are performing a particular action, a portion of the brain involved in the planning and execution of movement lights up with activity. The finding, made by scanning the brains of lucid dreamers while they slept, offers a glimpse into the non-waking consciousness and is a first step toward true "dream reading," according to a report published online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 27.

"Dreaming is not just looking at a movie," said Martin Dresler of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. " representing specific body motions are activated."

Lucid dreamers are aware that they are dreaming and can deliberately control their actions in dreams. The researchers realized that this learned skill presents an opportunity for studying the neural underpinnings of our dreams.

"The main obstacle in studying specific dream content is that spontaneous dream activity cannot be experimentally controlled, as subjects typically cannot perform predecided mental actions during sleep," study coauthor Michael Czisch explained. "Employing the skill of lucid dreaming can help to overcome these obstacles."

The researchers instructed participants to make a series of left and right hand movements separated by a series of eye movements upon entering a lucid dream state while their brains were scanned. Those eye movements served as a signal to the researchers of what was happening in the dream.

Those studies show for the first time that observed in the brain's sensorimotor cortex can be related to dreamed hand movements.

The discovery suggests that lucid dreaming in combination with neuroimaging and polysomnography (a more common form of sleep monitoring) may allow the transfer of more sophisticated "brain reading" tasks to the dreaming state, the researchers say. In other words, it might eventually be possible to predict dreamed content by analyzing patterns of .

Dresler says it will also be interesting to investigate activity at the moment a dreamer becomes lucid.

"The lucid dreamer gains insight into a very complex state: sleeping, dreaming, but being consciously aware of the dream state," he said. "This may inform us about concepts of consciousness."

Related Stories

Probing Question: What is a lucid dream?

Aug 26, 2010

Have you ever had a dream that just didn’t feel like a dream -- where, like Alice in Wonderland, you had trouble telling fiction from reality? Perhaps you even felt like you had control over what was happening, ...

Dreams may have an important physiological function

Nov 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dreams have long been assumed to have psychological functions such as consolidating emotional memories and processing experiences or problems, but according to a Harvard psychiatrist and sleep ...

To learn better, take a nap (and don't forget to dream)

Apr 22, 2010

Researchers reporting online on April 22nd in Current Biology offer more evidence that successful study habits should include plenty of napping. They found that people who take a nap and dream about a task ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unlock mystery of skin's sensory abilities

Dec 19, 2014

Humans' ability to detect the direction of movement of stimuli in their sensory world is critical to survival. Much of this stimuli detection comes from sight and sound, but little is known about how the ...

Tackling neurotransmission precision

Dec 18, 2014

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

A_Paradox
not rated yet Oct 28, 2011
It is about time that this was done. What I hope to see come out of it is where and how the brain represents/creates the 3D experience which we take so much for granted.
hush1
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 28, 2011
What do you replace when you duplicate the where and how of the creation and representation of 3D experience in the brain?

Is it the experience of Nature you replace?
Who takes Nature for granted? Why?
visual
1 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2011
It's a bit suspicious though. Certain areas of the motor cortex activate even when people just imagine performing a motion, without actually doing it.
I wonder if the researchers explored the difference in brain activity between all the possible cases: performing the action, trying to perform the action but being physically restrained not to be able to, consciously imagining to perform the action without performing it, and dreaming of any of these as well. This article doesn't make much clear.
hush1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 28, 2011
An article that "doesn't make much clear" and "is a bit suspicious" is illogical.
A_Paradox
not rated yet Oct 31, 2011
hush, what I mean is that we all just take for granted that we can "see" the 3D world around us, but the subtle truth is that the experience is *all* inside one's head. We don't normally think about this at all because, after all, the experience is *about* the world and we have evolved so as to take it *to be* the world. That normal state of taking experience to actually be the world is called naive realism. It is perfectly OK for most things we do but there are various aspects of our experience in certain situations which cannot be adequately explained from the point of view of naive realism.

BTW, what do mean by
What do you replace when you duplicate the where and how of the creation and representation of 3D experience in the brain?

hush1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 31, 2011
A Paradox
The quote explained:
When you replace the physical, the replacement will be inferior to the 'real' reality you replaced.

...the subtle truth is that the experience is *all* inside one's head. - A Paradox


Please, no lecture. Naive realism does not exist. Those words are meaningless. Experience is not what you have been taught the word means.
.1)What is inside your head are neurons. If you can not agree to that, the discourse ends here.
.2)What else is inside your head besides neurons? Electrical activity, from the neurons.
.3)What else is inside your head besides electrical activity from neurons? Nothing. Why? Because that is all your need - no matter what exists 'outside' the electrical activity of neurons.

When you were in the womb, you performed literally the functions you will exhibited at birth:
Did you breath? Yes you did. (Amniotic fluid)
Did you hear? Yes you did. (Mothers' and your heartbeat)
Did you see? Yes you did. (Darkness)
cont...
hush1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 31, 2011
Did you move? Yes, you did. (Your bearer is witness)
Did you smile. Yes, you did. (Research recordings)
Did you blink? Yes, you did. (More research)

This list does not stop. You did literally everything in the womb that you will repeat at birth. At birth you will cry.

Let's talk about the word 'experience'.
What did you 'experience' in the womb?
If you 'experienced' nothing in the womb, were you dead?
If you 'experienced' something in the womb, what was that 'experience'? Describe that experience.

I suggest when talking about the human state (of mind) you dump three words from you vocabulary:
1.)Experience
2.)Naive realism
3.)Truth

Let me know when you do. Then we can discourse further about what really happens to your neurons and all that exists beyond the membranes of your neurons.

Then there is no aspect about you that I will fail not to adequately explain. And rest assured. The words, naive realism, experience and truth will not be among the words of explanation.
HenisDov
1 / 5 (4) Nov 06, 2011
First learn what sleep is...:

Understand Sleep

From
http://universe-life.com/2011/07/16/sleep-researchers-are-still-researching/" title="http://http://universe-life.com/2011/07/16/sleep-researchers-are-still-researching/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://universe-l...arching/

Why Life Eats And Why Life Sleeps:

-Life ( and other, inanimate, mass spin arrays ) eats because the universe expands.

-Life sleeps because RNAs genesised-evolved long before metabolism evolved. They were active ONLY during sunlight hours. Thus sleep is inherent for RNAs, even though, being ORGANISMS, they now adapt to when/extent sleep time are feasible

Dov Henis
(comments from 22nd century)
http://universe-life.com

A_Paradox
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
hush,
I don't need you to "adequately explain" my experience to me.
If you choose to espouse some particular form of extreme reductionism, that is your choice. I no longer fight about such things; life is too short to be expended assailing apparently immovable objects so I just go around them. I am satisfied that human experience is intrinsically paradoxical and that there is no escape from the paradox.
If you want to test your mettle though try Steven Lehar,

http:// cns-alumni .bu .edu/~slehar/webstuff/bubw3/bubw3 .html#compmech

NB: remove the spaces and the link should work. Enjoy!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.