In a recent experiment from the Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley, scientists used brain imaging (fMRI) and computational models to decode and reconstruct people's dynamic visual experience (in this case, Hollywood movie trailers). This technology, however, can only reconstruct movie clips that people already viewed. However, the implication of this experiment is that this could be done with dreams and memories. Decoding brain signals generated by moving pictures is one of the major hurdles scientist had to overcome. The article claims practical applications such as incites into the brains of non-verbal patients. "Our natural visual experience is like watching a movie,” said Shinji Nishimoto, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher in Gallant’s lab.
While this experiment is particularly related to neuroscience, the most interest aspects for me are the potential abilities to reconstruct dreams and memories. This would enable humans to overcome false memory, distortion, and other problems relating to memory. We could be able to replay memories on Youtube using our smartphones anywhere we are located. This experience would be similar to how we use computers and the internet as spaces that we write down our thoughts and experiences and access them when we forget. This would be especially helpful during trials when false memory may effect an outcome unjustly. The practical claims that the article makes with improvements in this technology are also interesting. Non-verbal patients would be able to speak through past memories and allow us to have a deeper understanding of situations that may have led up to their loss of speech. Since our natural experience is like watching a movie, these videos of memories and dreams could also teach us about how we perceive reality in new and different ways.
Many questions arise related back to our readings we have done so far such as if the family members were shown visual memories of their grandparent's Nazi experience, would they still deny their involvement? Would the false recollections of the O.J. Simpson trial and Challenger news happen if this technology was present? Would people still believe in their actual memories of events or would the visual memories become the sole memory?
Original article and video: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/09/22/brain-movies/
Gallant Lab Site with FAQs: https://sites.google.com/site/gallantlabucb/publications/nishimoto-et-al-2011
Original Paper: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2811%2900937-7?script=true