Real Life Inception: Scientists Can ‘Control’ Plot of Dreams

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You are having that dream where you know you are dreaming. Now imagine you could control what happens next—with a little help from an electric charge.

According to a study published May 11, in Nature Neuroscience, applying electrical currents to the brain induces ‘lucid dreaming,’ a phenomenon where the dreamer is aware they are dreaming.

inceptionIn this state of “hybrid consciousness,” set between reality and the dream world, the person can sometimes gain control of the dream and manipulate the plot.

The study led by psychologist Ursula Voss of JW Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany included studying the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of the volunteers during lucid dreams and what they reported upon awakening.

Based on the data, the researchers found that electrical activity called gamma waves occur naturally during lucid dreaming. They then induced a current of the same frequency via electrodes on the scalp of 27 volunteers who reported to be aware they were dreaming.

The volunteers reported to feeling like they were observing their dream as a third party, and others reported to be able to control the dream plot, such as putting on clothes before going to work.

“In previous work, it has been asserted that because lucidity usually emerged from REM sleep dreaming, that lucidity was a REM sleep phenomenon, Voss and colleagues wrote in the study. “Our results suggest, instead, that lucidity occurs in a state with features of both REM sleep and waking. In order to move from non-lucid REM sleep dreaming to lucid REM sleep dreaming, there must be a shift in brain activity in the direction of waking.”

The results of the study are the first to show that triggering brain waves of a specific frequency produces lucid dreaming.

This hybrid state of consciousness can help those facing mental health disorders by facing traumatic events in their dreams and changing the outcomes. “Promoting gamma oscillations during REM sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder with re-emerging nightmares might trigger lucid dreaming and eventually enable active changes in dream content,” Voss wrote.



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