Dr Cerf makes his bold claim based on an initial study which he says suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts.
He found, for example, that when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up.
By showing volunteers a series of images, Dr Cerf and his colleagues were able to identify neurons for a wide range of objects and concepts – which they used to build up a database for each patient. These included Bill and Hilary Clinton, the Eiffel Tower and celebrities.
So by observing which brain cell lit up and when, Dr Cerf says he was effectively able to “read the subjects’ minds”.
He admits that there is a very long way to go before this simple observation can be translated into a device to record dreams, or dream catcher. But he thinks it is a possibility – and he said he would like to try.
Cerf also mentions the possibility of reading people’s thoughts when they are in comas. It seems like this could other, more dubious applications as well.
See also: Dream recording project