Some incredible new research is paving the way to literally record and play back your dreams - and lucid dreams - just like movies.
Though the technology is in its infancy, the concept has already been proven by similar fMRI studies. Now, scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto have applied this system to dreamers' brains, marking the first step on the way to recording and replaying our dreams.
The Japanese study published in the the journal Science, called Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep, reveals how scientists used a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine to scan the brains of three volunteers as they started to enter the dreamstate.
"We focused on dream experience which can be detected just a few minutes after the sleep onset," explained researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani.
The researchers then woke the volunteers more than 200 times to ask them what they were dreaming about. As annoying as that may sound, their dream descriptions meant that specific dream imagery could be linked with specific patterns of brain activity.
That's because dream stimulus - just like waking stimulus - creates certain patterns of blood flow in specific areas of the brain. And it's highly consistent. So, if you raise your right arm in your dream, the same parts of the brain activate as when you raise your right arm while awake. This happens across a range of stimuli, whether you're listening to classical music or recalling a nasty smell.
The result? A primitive yet fully functional dream decoder, translating raw brain activity data into moving images representative of dreams. With increasingly more data, the translation will become increasingly more accurate and vivid.
The following video is a demonstration of this emerging technology. The images are a computer's interpretation of what the volunteer was dreaming about.
Now, here's the dreamer's description of what was really happening:
"What I was just looking at was some kind of characters. There was something like a writing paper for composing an essay, and I was looking at the characters from the essay or whatever it was..."
"In this field of dream decoding no-one has managed to successfully do this before," commented neuroscientist Jack Gallant. "If you could build the perfect dream decoder it would create a movie on your television screen and it would just replay your dreams."
While it may be a few more years until we can all play back our dreams in that fashion, the latest study is a landmark event that could one day see us directing blockbusters from our beds...
These days, fMRI research is all the rage when it comes to understanding the brain. A similar study last year led to this extraordinary reconstruction of visual imagery.
Scientists at UC Berkeley built up an extensive library of YouTube clips and trained their software to translate brain scan data into movies. The major difference was they were comparing fMRI scans with volunteers watching Hollywood movies (as opposed to dreaming). While they're both pursuing similar goals, the latest Japanese research is the first attempt to use fMRI to actually record and play back our dreams.
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Books are a powerful way to increase our understanding and generate new perspectives. Good books are immersive and profound: they can change the way we live our lives. In teaching us new lessons, stripping away fallacies and inspiring independent thought, the following books on lucid dreaming are bestsellers for a reason - they are groundbreaking and thought-provoking reads to expand your awareness and develop your lucid dreaming skills.
Galantamine is best known for its ability to improve memory and provoke intense lucid dreams. Research by Dr Stephen LaBerge has found that taking galantamine intensifies your dreams on many levels, including cognition, lucidity, recall, control, bizarreness and visual vividness. If you want to boost your dream life, and maybe prompt some lucid dreams, it's worth taking the occasional galantamine supplement.
Why write a book about how to "hack" sleep? Well, I've suffered from sleep issues throughout my entire adult life. Sleep was such a tough thing to figure out. It didn't respond to willpower. I could beg and cry and kick and scream to myself to fall asleep, but my body would not listen. Finally, I realized that enough was enough and that I was going to fix this very important area of my life for good, or at least do my best to try. I spent nearly one year constructing a system to improve the quality of my sleep.
Humans are unique in our endless capacity for imagination. According to Steven Mithen, an anthropologist at the University of Reading in the UK, we needed to evolve seven critical mental skills before we could have imagination as we know it. Each of these abilities serve a distinct purpose in their own right, while imagination is the culmination of them all.
This dream starts out pretty violent but then suddenly goes all profound on me. I'm having a nightmare in which a thin, gray-faced man is trying to kill me. I become lucid and battle him with ease, firing shots of lighting out of my hands and hitting him in the chest. He falls to his knees and I lock him in a gated prison using only my mind. But then my lucid dream evolves into a lucid nightmare. Another villain, who looks like Krang (or Krang's body at least) from that delightful cartoon about giant mutant turtles, frees the gray man using his telepathic powers. I am no match for him.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?