Can we really read people’s dreams? Sorry, in spite of what Cobb says, we can’t do it- yet. (I am not telling you not to see Inception; I think the movie is among the most intelligent I have seen.) But, scientists are working on it. Here are some of the approaches being taken.
Dr. Lawrence Farwell has been working on a machine to “fingerprint” your brain for years. But, really, it’s closer to a device that monitors what you “know”. His device employs a headband that is put around one’s head; the headband is replete with electro-encepholographic sensors. Once you’ve been fitted, you watch a monitor that flips through a series of pictures (pretty quickly). If the image is familiar to you, within 300 to 800 milliseconds of seeing the image, your brain provides an electrical response. Obviously, this doesn’t let the monitor know what you see, just what is familiar to you.
Dr. Farwell uses his device by testing suspects- someone intimately involved with a crime or a terrorist act. By showing pictures only one involved with the act would know, the device detects the response; it is clear that the subject is involved- somehow. There is no means for Dr. Farwell’s invention to tell us what the involvement is, but it’s a start. Enough of a start that the CIA funded Farwell to the tune of about a million bucks over the years.
On another front, Dr. Jack Gallant at Berkeley (University of California) monitors brain function using fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Using computer algorithms and brain-pattern analysis, the subject’s visual system is modeled. This affords him the ability to “see” what the subject is seeing in his head. Dr. Gallant believes he can reproduce the images the subject sees in his/her dream- but only the dreamer can tell if this is accurate or not.
Yukiyasu Kamitani, director of the Neuroinformatics Laboratory of the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kansai Science City (outside of Osaka, Japan) also uses fMRI. But, it feed those scans into a computer that associates changes in brain activity with different images. By monitoring the blood flow in a subject, the computer builds black and white images. But, they still can’t get the dream images.
There are other researchers using similar techniques for brain pattern analysis, but no one can read your dreams. So, they are safe with you- for now.