Have you ever had a dream where you were lucid — where you knew that you were dreaming and could somewhat respond accordingly, like in the film "Inception"? Scientists appear to have found a way to bring this induced state of lucid dreaming out of Hollywood and into reality.
"I never thought this would work," Dr. John Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist and sleep researcher at Harvard University who was involved with the study, told LiveScience. "But it looks like it does."
To achieve it, scientists at J.W. Goethe-University Frankfurt in Germany actually wired participants up and zapped their brains while they were sleeping.
According to the study published this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience, there is a link between fronto-temporal gamma electroencephalographic activity and conscious awareness in dreams.
"We found that current stimulation in the lower gamma band during REM sleep influences ongoing brain activity and induces self-reflective awareness in dreams," the authors wrote in the study abstract. "Other stimulation frequencies were not effective, suggesting that higher order consciousness is indeed related to synchronous oscillations around 25 and 40 Hz."
To reach these conclusions, the study had 27 volunteers who were not regular lucid dreamers. Researchers outfitted participants' heads with electrodes that simulated the frontal cortex of the brain, simulating the gamma wave activity previously seen in lucid dreams, Live Science reported. Participants, after various levels of stimulation or none at all were applied, were woken up and rated their perceived state of consciousness in the dream.
“I was dreaming about lemon cake. It looked translucent, but then again, it didn’t. It was a bit like in an animated movie, like 'The Simpsons,’” one of the participants reported, according to NBC News. “Then I realized ‘Oops, you are dreaming.’ I mean, while I was dreaming! So strange!”
"We were surprised that it's possible to force the brain to take on a frequency from the outside, and for the brain to actually vibrate in that frequency and actually show an effect," study designer Ursula Voss told Live Science.
Scientists think these gamma waves might be helping different area of the brain, like the areas involved with making decisions and making memories, which New Scientist reported are not usually in sync during REM sleep, connect during this type of dream state.
Applications for the research could include helping patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or nightmares.
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