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Scientists communicate with lucid dreamers in breakthrough study

Scientists have managed to achieve two-way communication with lucid dreamers for the first time. Specialists are now drafting up a whole new avenue for dream analysis.

While it’s hard to find value in listening to a family member or colleague’s subconscious adventures from the night before, understanding the hallucinatory world inside our dreams remains high on the bucket list for both neuroscientists and psychologists alike.

Understanding the meaning behind our dreams and why we even dream at all is a vista science hasn’t really been able to crack as of yet. However, a breakthrough experiment with ‘lucid dreamers’ this week has opened up a new world of possibilities for those within the field.

What is lucid dreaming?

If you’ve never heard the term ‘lucid dream’ before – outside of maybe Juice WRLD’s chart topping banger – the term refers to a select portion of people who have the ability to manipulate events and make conscious decisions within their dreams.

Unlike the majority of us, they aren’t just along for the ride and can actively control what happens. If you’re amongst the chosen ones, please teach us your ways.

Typically taking place during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep – otherwise known as ‘paradoxical sleep’ – when the brain is most active, 55% of people are said to have experienced a lucid dream at least once in their lifetime.

It’s those who can seemingly drift in and out at will, the self-professed lucid dreamers, which may hold the key to better understanding the human brain and why we dream.

The breakthrough study

This week, a team of international researchers at Current Biology were able to achieve two-way communication with people in the midst of lucid dreams – a feat previously thought to be impossible.

36 participants were recruited in different laboratory settings across the US, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, in the hope that a significant sample would fall into a state of lucid dreaming and still demonstrate an ability to communicate with experts.

Verifying that people had entered REM sleep through monitoring electrode patterns next to the eyes, chin, and brainwaves through the scalp, experts were able to confirm several participants had entered an aware state of dreaming. These lucid dreamers then performed a left-right ocular pattern established before the experiment to demonstrate that they were cognisant.

A simple set of questions were then put to each participant to better understand how functional a lucid dreamer can be whilst asleep.

Roughly 18% of the trials resulted in a ‘clear and accurate’ communication from the dreamer, 17% produced indecipherable answers, 3% answered questions incorrectly, and 60% provoked no response at all. In a few really impressive instances, people were even able to perform adding and subtraction sums through eye signals, confirming their answers on multiple occasions.

If that wasn’t freaky enough, many of the participants were able to actually recall the interactions with researchers when awake, and a few reported that prompts sounded like a voiceover or narrator emanating from outside their dream space.

Why is this useful?

We’ve all had the experience of waking from a vivid dream only to feel its contents fade into fragments and then eventually nothing as the day unfolds.

Accurately reconstructing a dream once fully awake is incredibly difficult, and thus research into dream analysis is often plighted by questions of unreliability. This is in part due to the fact our brains don’t naturally intend to form new memories while asleep. That would be pretty darn boring 90% of the time, after all.

Through communicating live with lucid dreamers though, experts now have the potential to gain insight into better understanding how dreams work – and if they can potentially one day be manipulated.

It may sound like something from Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but researchers from this experiment are suggesting that if we continue with this kind of study, we may eventually be able to adapt dreams with external cues to fit a person’s specific needs.

Whether someone is coping with emotional trauma and needs a revolutionary type of therapy, or even just wants to live out some type of fantasy (not like that), researchers believe we could now be on the right track to making it a reality.

Sounds good to me. I don’t know about you, but personally I’m sick of being chased around by cartoon beasts at 26 years of age.