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Dreams Imaged, Scientists Claim

Sleep Deprivation: The Great American Myth

Japanese researchers say they've imaged thoughts and dreams and displayed them on a computer screen.

At the web site of the journal Neuron, where the findings are to be published, the researchers summarize their work: "The results suggest that our approach provides an effective means to read out complex perceptual states from brain activity."

Brain imaging is nothing new. And the images are reportedly very simple, but the researchers claim the technique could lead to the ability to unlock the secrets of dreams.

"By applying this technology, it may become possible to record and replay subjective images that people perceive like dreams," the scientists are quoted as saying in The Telegraph of London. In one experiment, test subjects were shown the six letters of the word "neuron," and the subsequent brain activity was used to reconstruct the letters on a screen.

Scientists mostly agree that dreaming happens during the phase called Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Some researchers think you dream about tasks and emotions that were not dealt with fully, and that dreaming can help solidify thoughts and memories.

Even animals dream. And some people think they can control their dreams. The jury is still out on that, but studies show that some dreamers can communicate with researchers during a dream.

Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he takes a daily look at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.

Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.