Machine that could scan the brain and read your dreams: Scanner is so powerful it can detect and reconstruct images of faces people are thinking of
- Scientists have created a machine which can read dreams while we sleep
- US researchers say it is so powerful it can extract images from the brain
- Believe it could be used in future to reconstruct people's memories
- Could collect images of criminals from the minds of witnesses, they say
Scientists have created a machine with the potential to read our dreams while we sleep.
Researchers in the US say it is so powerful that it can extract images from people’s brains and display them on a screen.
The data from the brain scanner has already been used to detect and reconstruct images of faces that people are thinking of.
Researchers believe the same technology could be used in the future to enable them to reconstruct images from people’s memories, imagination and dreams.
Scientists say they have created a machine with the potential to read dreams during sleep (library image)
It could also possibly be used to collect images of criminals from the minds of witnesses.
Alan Cowen, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said: ‘Our methods yield strikingly accurate neural reconstructions of faces.
‘This represents a novel and promising approach for investigating face perception, but also suggests avenues for reconstructing ‘offline’ visual experiences — including dreams, memories and imagination.’
Six volunteers were shown 300 faces while they laid inside an MRI scanner.
Scientists were then able to analyse how their brains responded to dozens of different facial features including blond hair and blue eyes to dark skin and beards.
When they had compiled a database of responses, they showed the volunteers a new set of faces and measured their reaction to each image.
By comparing the second responses to the database, they were able to reconstruct the image they were looking at.
The research is based on a theory that all human processes have a ‘neural correlate’ and that thoughts and feelings are merely a complex pattern of chemical reactions.
Some neuroscientists believe there is the potential to read such patterns if they can only build sensitive enough instruments.
Six volunteers were shown 300 faces while they laid inside an MRI scanner. They then compiled a database of responses used to create the machine
Mr Cowen and his fellow researchers, Brice Kuhl of New York University and Professor Marvin Chun of Yale, believe that extracting facial images is the first step towards eventually producing advanced mind-reading technology.
Mr Kuhl said: ‘I study memory, and it’s hard not to be excited by the prospect of being able to reconstruct the images that we bring to mind when we remember something.
‘We are certainly heading in the direction of reconstructing dreams too. Something that looks like a high-definition movie of your dreams is not going to happen in the immediate future, but we have already seen improvements in the sensitivity of these methods.’
Mr Cowen assured the public that the technology did not enable them to forcibly extract information from subjects, however.
He told Fox News: ‘This sort of technology can only read active parts of the brain. So you couldn’t read passive memories – you would have to get the person to imagine the memory to read it.
‘It’s a matter of time, and eventually – maybe 200 years from now – we’ll have some way of reading inactive parts
of the brain.
‘But that’s a much harder problem, as it involves measuring very fine details of brain structure that we don’t even really understand.’