You may soon be able to watch your dreams while you’re awake.
We really do live in strange times. As impossible as it sounds, scientists are making real strides toward recording people’s dreams, and they’re a lot closer than you may think.
Moran Cerf, an Israeli neuroscientist at Northwestern University, studies decision making processes – both when we’re awake and when we’re asleep. As part of his research, he is putting electrodes on the brains of people undergoing brain surgery to “listen to activity of specific brain cells,” Cerf said. This gives him a gist of what people are thinking about. “We can say that you dreamed about your mom and dad,” explained Cerf, an alumnus of Tel Aviv University. “But we’re not sure about what your mom was wearing.”
Those images may get clearer soon. A recent CNN feature about the potential to video record dreams discussed the work of Japanese researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani from Kyoto University. He has already started reconstructing images from a waking person’s mind using a machine that measures brain activity. He’s interested in using the same technology to record dreams.
And scientists don’t necessarily need to look into your head to see what’s going on in it. During REM sleep, you’re paralyzed so you can’t act out your dreams. But when you dream about, say, running from a dinosaur, your brain still sends electrical signals telling your legs to move.
“Nerve impulses are still going to those muscles,” pointed out Daniel Oldis, a lucid dream researcher working with David M. Schnyer, an American neuroscientist at the University of Texas. Oldis and Schnyer are trying to measure these signals. They’re also measuring signals in participants’ lips and throats to figure out what people are saying in their dreams.
So when will you be able to see your dreams? Likely, this will all happen in stages. In a few months to a year, you might have a device that tells you what you dreamed about in a general sense, says Cerf. It’ll probably be decades before you’ll have a proper dream cinema.
Of course, this raises all sorts of issues. Will you be able to spy on someone else’s dreams?