by DAVID NIELD

Scientists have identified a new phenomenon they describe as “interactive dreaming”, where people experiencing deep sleep and lucid dreams are able to follow instructions, answer simple yes-or-no questions, and even solve basic mathematics problems.

As well as adding a whole new level of understanding to what happens to our brains when we’re dreaming, the new study could eventually teach us how to train our dreams – to help us towards a particular goal, for example, or to treat a particular mental health problem.

There’s plenty about the psychology of sleep that remains a mystery, including the rapid eye movement (REM) stage where dreams usually occur. Being able to get responses from sleepers in real time, rather than relying on reports afterwards, could be hugely useful.

A summary of the experiments. (Konkoly et al., Current Biology 2021)

“We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication,” says psychologist Ken Paller from Northwestern University. “We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers.

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