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View Full Version : Videotaping dreams -- how to sound realistic?



reni
08-21-2005, 11:09 PM
Here's the premise: Guy plagued by nightmares goes to a dream specialist. (Would it be a psychiatrist? Psychologist? Yep, you guessed it, I'm clueless.) The specialist is intrigued by the guy and asks him to participate in experimental testing, blah blah blah.

Here's the important part, as far as my question goes: The basis of this story revolves around the ability to record and view actual dreams on a televised screen. Now ... obviously, this is impossible, so I desperately need someone to help me make it sound possible.

All I've got right now is the specialist would need some sort of brain wave reader, optical sensors, something like that. If it was possible, how would it work? I've got the story in my head and no expertise whatsoever on how to make it believable, so somebody please help me!

Bufty
08-21-2005, 11:30 PM
I can't help, and I may be wrong, but I guess the degree of research and believability depends on whether you are writing Fantasy or Science Fiction.

WVWriterGirl
08-21-2005, 11:33 PM
Here's the premise: Guy plagued by nightmares goes to a dream specialist. (Would it be a psychiatrist? Psychologist? Yep, you guessed it, I'm clueless.) The specialist is intrigued by the guy and asks him to participate in experimental testing, blah blah blah.

I've got a little bit of info about this, but only very little. Since this is a completely made-up profession (recording dreams, not analyzing them) you could use real medical terms to create a made-up profession name. "Somnographer" might work, although I'm unsure whether or not this is an actual medical branch.

("Somnae/o" = sleep, "-ographer" = one who makes a record of)


All I've got right now is the specialist would need some sort of brain wave reader, optical sensors, something like that. If it was possible, how would it work? I've got the story in my head and no expertise whatsoever on how to make it believable, so somebody please help me!

I would assmume that an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine would be required in any medical analysis of dreams. EEGs track the electrical signals present in the brain, usually during a sleep or partial-sleep state. When I had one when I was little, the doctor told me she was "finding out what my dreams were about". :)

WVWG

Doyle
08-21-2005, 11:46 PM
Great Challenge, all the world loves a liar, right? Because that is what this is, the Grand Lie, and it works because the audience wants to believe it -- keep that in mind.

I would work the backstory a bit, something that happened to your hero(ine) that not only is the root of the nightmares, but is also the very reason why the new experimental stuff is able to work. A good backstory will hook the reader, and the fact that the "bad" thing becomes the "good" thing is always fun.

As to stuff, first I have to say I think I have either seen a movie or two that does this, or read a book or two that does this. The basic physical stuff is something that goes on the head and looks like a hairdryer on steroids. Then there is the cords and cables, and (new thought) maybe some wizzy little techie person who has worked out all these esoteric algorithms to analyze brain waves and works with the doc.

The actual details are less important than the believability of the story line, after all, your story is not about the equipment, its about the people. The equipment could even be something left over from WW II, pick your villian, Nazi or Jap, or discovered in grandpa's acttic, or left behind by aliens.

The reader is less interested in what the contraptration is, but in what it does, and how it drives the story. Oh, remember TRON, the movie, now there was a contraption that could work for you, just hook all that up to a TV screen. So, go rent TRON, (call around to find it) have some friends over, pop some corn, twist a bud, settle back and enjoy. After the movie I am sure your friends will be helpful about how the hardware could work for you.

Doyle (Do it today!)

Richard
08-21-2005, 11:47 PM
Just say it's scanning the brainwaves/electrical signals in the brain and converting the signal into a stream on the TV and leave it at that. It's usually better to over-simplify the technology than make up something that's going to sound silly to anyone who knows what they're talking about. Dream recording's not exactly new territory for sci-fi in and of itself, and just adding a load of technobabble won't seperate it.

Also, I'm pretty sure a somnographer is someone who specialises in sleep disorders, so probably a bad choice ;-)

WVWriterGirl
08-22-2005, 12:36 AM
Also, I'm pretty sure a somnographer is someone who specialises in sleep disorders, so probably a bad choice ;-)

Thanks, Richard! Goes to show you, just because you see the word all the time doesn't mean you know the proper use of it.

:)

WVWG

Unique
08-22-2005, 12:43 AM
Check out Christopher Walken in Brainstorm. People could wear a contraption on their heads & live/view the experiences of other people. Concept might be similar. That movie came to mind when you mentioned what you were looking for.



www.movie-pages.com/movie/brainstorm/B00004VVN9/ (http://www.movie-pages.com/movie/brainstorm/B00004VVN9/)

loquax
08-22-2005, 02:44 AM
Brainstorm rules. Great ending.

veinglory
08-22-2005, 03:01 AM
I disagree about glossing it. An eeg could never be made into a video because it shows only cell activity. A sf book that suggested otherwise would annoy a lot of people. There is an area in the occipital cortex that maps what we see and hear. You can make blind people 'see' by directly stimulating it and you could plausibly read what we 'see' in dreams from this area. If you want a basic work up on how this could potentially be done just PM me.

Mac H.
08-22-2005, 05:11 AM
One approach that might make it a LITTLE more plausible would be to have some images to correlate to.

Your patient would be shown pictures while their EEG/MRI was being recorded. You would show the patient pictures of children, monsters, cars, different colours, desks, phones, running, walking, flying, anger, laughing, objects in the left, objects in the right, tall, short, circles, squares etc etc.

So when they are dreaming and you are measuring the EEG/MRI - you just have to compare the waveforms with what they produced when shown the various pictures.

So if the waveform looked like a 'composite' of the EEG/MRI while they were being shown the pictures, you could create a 'composite' picture from the EEG/MRI while they were dreaming.

(So if the EEG showed a combination of what appeared on the brain when they viewed the 'left', 'short' , 'green' & 'monster' then the computer just creates a composite image of those things)

OK - it would never work in real life - certainly not from an EEG (an engineer would worry about bandwidth) but it would be the type of approach that might plausibly-ish work.

And it has been tried with our rodent friends. Basically rats have been wired up with the EEGs being monitored while they did a maze, and found that the dreams they had gave EEGs which correlated with doing the maze. Hence - they were dreaming about the maze. (Disclaimer: That was a simplified explanation.)
See http://www.justpacific.com/bits'n'pieces/dreams~rats.html for details.
And a great quote from the article:
And though the dreams of the laboratory rats turned out to be somewhat prosaic, Dr. Wilson said, this could be simply because they tend to lead boring lives.
Or you could just mutter 'visual cortex' and have lots of wires...

Mac
(PS: An EEG machine is a 'brain wave reader')

Gehanna
08-22-2005, 07:37 AM
To reni,

Sleep and dream study involves much more than the use of an EEG. This is because the biochemical activity taking place during sleep has significant systemic effects.

My suggestion would be to consider the concept of Virtual Reality in reverse. The subject could wear devices on the body similar to those used in VR. These devices would pick up the biochemical activity taking place during the nightmares and feed the information into a computer system. The computer system would then interpret the data and display the nightmare on a screen...or as a holograph.


Sincerely,
Gehanna

Hang of Thursdays
08-22-2005, 01:23 PM
Mac already touched on this, but I'll keep talking like I didn't notice that after i posted.

This might be too difficult to explain in the story itself (without it coming out as the worst exposition possible) but it might give you a nice frame of reference. knowing that YOU know how it might work can help you write even if you don't ever tell anyone.

Scientists have discovered that if they monitor (through an MRI) the brain of a person, very specific patterns will appear when they are shown a picture of John Wayne as opposed to, say, a picture of a butterfly. Scientists can recognize these patterns, later, independent of having seen the picture shown to the patient because the patterns are that specific and unique.

Now, I doubt that these specific patterns are universal. Your wife might not have the same response to the John Wayne picture as you do. But I don't know for sure. It's possible that in the future there can be compiled a pattern dictionary, and a computer program invented that can take the constantly changing patterns and arrange them into a pictoral sequence. A sufficiently advanced computer could arrange those pictures into a movie of sorts.

What would be important, it seems, is to induce the dream again, so the patient can "SEE" it again so the computer can record it.

It's worth noting that because dreams are usually vague and amorphous, a recording of the dream probably would be, too. You're probably NOT going to get high res, but a computer that could recognize specific patterns could help in bringing those more into focus, disregarding the background information.

Other technologies, used in tandem, could maybe fill in the "sound" of the dream. Hard to say.

I think it's always best to try and extrapolate from current technology, and this seems as good as any.

MadScientistMatt
08-23-2005, 01:11 AM
I've worn an EEG once for an experiment. It was a rather cumbersome thing - had a hairnet soaked in saline solution, a bunch of sensors all over my head that constantly needed to have an attendant add water to keep them from drying out, and to top it off, I was supposed to keep blinks to a mininmum because the amount of current needed to blink was so powerful some of the sensors couldn't detect anything else if I blinked. I'd suspect an MRI type device might be more accurate, and certainly a lot easier to deal with when dreaming.

I would try to use as little detail as possible. The way I see it, the fewer actual scientific details in science fiction, the harder it is to nitpick it. So I'd just state that the patient had to sleep in an MRI unit, while the experimenter used a computer to analyze the MRI images and convert that to a series of images. Both MRIs and computers are familiar things, it's just the software that would be a bit of a leap.

One thing that you might want to show would be calibrating it. The patient would sit in the MRI while a screen showed a set of standard images. These might be people, objects, or geometric patterns - more likely, all of them.

Just some thoughts.