Humanity has been able reach distant vistas, such as the Moon, the deep oceans, and the wild expanses at Earth’s poles. Now, scientists have made a new breakthrough in the exploration of a very different type of frontier—the hallucinatory world inside dreams.
An international team of researchers was able to achieve real-time dialogues with people in the midst of lucid dreams, a phenomenon that is called “interactive dreaming,” according to a study published on Thursday in Current Biology.
Participants in the study were able to correctly respond to questions, such as simple math problems, while they were deep in the throes of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. The research reveals a “relatively unexplored communication channel” that could enable “a new strategy for the empirical exploration of dreams,” the study reports.
“There are studies of lucid dreamers communicating out of dreams, and also remembering to do tasks,” said Karen Konkoly, a PhD student at Northwestern University and first author of the paper, in a call. “But there’s a fairly limited amount of research on the stimuli going into lucid dreams.”
“One thing that surprised us is that you could just say a sentence to somebody, and they could understand it just as it actually is,” she added.
Konkoly and her colleagues recruited 36 people to fall asleep in laboratories located in the United States, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, with the aim of entering a lucid state in which the person was aware that they were in a dream. The study included several experienced lucid dreamers, including one individual with narcolepsy, as well as people who were less familiar with this type of dream.
The researchers verified that participants had entered REM sleep by placing electrodes next to their eyes, on their scalps, and on their chins. By measuring activity such as brainwaves and eyeball movements, sleep experts can determine if a person had entered this deep sleep state. Some of the participants were then asked to confirm that they were in a dream with a pre-arranged ocular response in which they moved their eyes in a specific left-right pattern.