It told the story of a thief with the ability to enter people's dreams and implant ideas in their minds.
Not according to a group of researchers at Brown University.
They have discovered a way to implant associations in people's brains, without them even being aware of it.
Moreover, the scientists believe this technique could be used for learning and therapeutic purposes in the future.
The study involved subjects lying in an fMRI machine and being subconsciously trained to see the colour red when they were shown images of black and white stripes over several days.
The subjects were only asked to “try to somehow regulate your brain activity”. They were then given a score to show how well they had apparently done.
Then when the subjects thought of the colour red (despite being unaware that they were doing so) they received higher scores. During a the period of 500 attempts, they increasingly saw red when shown the black and white stripes.
Consequently, the scientists learned that it's possible to use neuro-feedback training to strengthen associative memories in the mind. These memories could also last for months after the training was complete.
This means people might one day be able to absorb a range of differnt information without realising it, which could be a fascinating development in the education sphere. It could also be used to help eliminate bad memories or assist people with autism, according to the researchers.
"Our brain functions are mostly based on associative processing, so association is extremely important," said Watanabe. "Now we know that this technology can be applied to induce associative learning."
The paper is published in the journal Current Biology
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