International researchers have made a breakthrough in the fascinating world of dreams, by communicating with lucid dreamers.
The team claim they were able to achieve real-time dialogues with people that were in the middle of lucid dreams and are now calling the phenomenon 'interactive dreaming'.
Before we get into the science, it's probably worth explaining what lucid dreams are. You might have experienced them before without realising.
Essentially, they're the dreams you have when you know you're dreaming... while you're asleep. They feel vivid and real and you might be able to control how things unfold. They usually happen during rapid eye movement (REM) - the stage of sleep when there is more brain activity.
Lucid dreams aren't massively common as an everyday occasion but you may experience them a handful of times each year. Some people use them to prepare for real life events - for example, if you've got a job interview coming up, you might be capable of practising.
This recent study, which was published on Thursday 18 February in Current Biology, says that dreamers answered questions in real-time with volitional eye movements or facial muscle signals.
The researchers got a number of people to participate in the study before waiting until they were in REM sleep to quiz them on things, such as simple maths problems.
After answering correctly, it was realised that there could be a 'new strategy for the empirical exploration of dreams'.
Karen Konkoly, a PhD student at Northwestern University and first author of the paper, said: "There are studies of lucid dreamers communicating out of dreams, and also remembering to do tasks. 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."
There were 36 people in total that took part in the research. They were from the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands, according to VICE.
Placing electrodes next to their eyes enabled the team to see when they had entered REM sleep. They were then asked questions and and, in response, moved their eyes in left to right patterns.
A 19-year-old American participant was tasked with subtracting six from eight while he was in a lucid dream, and he correctly signalled the answer 'two' with two eye movements.
Konkoly added: "It's amazing to sit in the lab and ask a bunch of questions, and then somebody might actually answer one.
"It's such an immediately rewarding type of experiment to do. You don't have to wait to analyse your data or anything like that. You can see it right there while they're still sleeping."
They're not stopping here though, as Konkoly added: "We've thought of so many experiments we could do with this
"I think one predicate that we're working on now is: how can we optimise the procedure? How can we have this happen more? How can we have people have more lucid dreams? How can we communicate more reliably?"
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