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.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
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?