Updated: Jun 8
By: April Carson
According to a recent study, scientists have effectively communicated with a person while they were asleep by influencing their dreams in real-time. The scientists likened this form of communication to that of talking with an astronaut on a separate planet.
According to the results of four experiments described in the journal Current Biology, dreamers have the ability to follow instructions, perform basic math problems and respond to yes-no questions without waking up. While this technique is still in its infancy, researchers believe the implications could be far-reaching.
During lucid dreams, researchers asked sleeping participants questions and the participants responded with eye or facial movements. Lucid dreams occur when people are minimally aware that they are dreaming and some lucid dreamers can control their dreams.
According to Karen Konkoly, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University in Illinois and the first author of the study, one might assume that communicating with someone who is asleep would result in no response. However, Konkoly was surprised when someone responded to her questions from their dream and although she hoped it would be possible, she initially didn't believe it was true.
The researchers hope to continue their work and develop new methods of communication with sleeping individuals. These possibilities could greatly enhance the way we interact with others, even when they are asleep.
Scientists do not completely understand why people dream every night, and studying dreams is tough due to the tendency of people to forget or change details after waking up. This is mainly because the brain does not create many new memories during sleep and has limited capacity to store information precisely after the dream is over.
The researchers aimed to communicate with people during their lucid dreams in order to overcome the limitation. They hypothesized that since the study participants were having lucid dreams, they could consciously respond to external stimuli.
To determine when the participants were in the stage of sleep where lucid dreams are most likely to occur, researchers attached electrodes to their heads to measure brainwaves, next to their eyes to track eye movements, and on their chins to measure muscle activity. They then used audio recordings to ask questions while the participants were in a lucid dreaming state.
Several lab groups in different countries conducted experiments to communicate with people while they were in REM sleep. The researchers used techniques like speaking to the sleepers and giving them messages through flashing lights or taps. If the sleepers understood the messages and responded with specific eye or facial movements, the researchers were able to interpret them through electrodes.
The researchers concluded that it is possible to communicate with people while they are dreaming and that these conversations can even be two-way. They suggest this method may help us understand more about the human brain and our dreams, enabling us to interact with others in a new way.
According to Pilleriin Sikka, a senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde in Sweden and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku in Finland, the ability for communication to occur both inside and outside of dreams may seem like it belongs in science fiction. However, the recent study's success is noteworthy due to the difficulty in inducing lucid dreams in a controlled laboratory setting and the fact that four independent lab groups conducted the research. "It shows that the ability to interact with a dream is real," Sikka said.
A 2016 research paper published in Consciousness and Cognition states that approximately 23% of people have a lucid dream at least once a month. In her experiments, Konkoly trained participants to associate a sound with a lucid state of mind, and then presented that sound during sleep to induce lucid dreams. Konkoly suggested that anyone who wants to try to experience lucid dreams can download an app called Lucid, developed by students in the Northwestern University lab.
These findings suggest that people may be able to use this method of communication in the future, enabling them to ask dreamers questions about what is happening inside their heads while they sleep. This could revolutionize how we understand the human mind and provide us with a way to interact with dreams.
"Our work provides a starting point for further research into dream communication,” said Konkoly. “We hope to continue to explore how we can interact with dreaming and the implications of our findings."
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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