Tag Archive: Dreams


Today psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire announces the results of a two-year study into dream control. The experiment shows that it is now possible for people to create their perfect dream, and so wake up feeling especially happy and refreshed.

In 2010, Professor Wiseman teamed-up with app developers YUZA to create ‘Dream:ON’ — an iPhone app that monitors a person during sleep and plays a carefully crafted ‘soundscape’ when they dream. Each soundscape was carefully designed to evoke a pleasant scenario, such as a walk in the woods, or lying on a beach, and the team hoped that these sounds would influence people’s dreams. At the end of the dream, the app sounded a gentle alarm and prompted the person to submit a description of their dream.

The app was downloaded over 500,000 times and the researchers collected millions of dream reports. After studying the data, Professor Wiseman discovered that the soundscapes did indeed influence people’s dreams.
Richard Wiseman, professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “If someone chose the nature landscape then they were more likely to have a dream about greenery and flowers. In contrast, if they selected the beach soundscape then they were more likely to dream about the sun beating down on their skin.”

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Why does the brain remember dreams?

Some people recall a dream every morning, whereas others rarely recall one. A team led by Perrine Ruby, an Inserm Research Fellow at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, has studied the brain activity of these two types of dreamers in order to understand the differences between them. In a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the researchers show that the temporo-parietal junction, an information-processing hub in the brain, is more active in high dream recallers. Increased activity in this brain region might facilitate attention orienting toward external stimuli and promote intrasleep wakefulness, thereby facilitating the encoding of dreams in memory.

Jonction-temporo-parietal

The reason for dreaming is still a mystery for the researchers who study the difference between “high dream recallers,” who recall dreams regularly, and “low dream recallers,” who recall dreams rarely. In January 2013, the team led by Perrine Ruby, Inserm researcher at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, made the following two observations: “high dream recallers” have twice as many time of wakefulness during sleep as “low dream recallers” and their brains are more reactive to auditory stimuli during sleep and wakefulness. This increased brain reactivity may promote awakenings during the night, and may thus facilitate memorisation of dreams during brief periods of wakefulness.

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Maybe you’re meandering, alone and lost, through an abandoned castle surrounded by a crocodile-filled moat. Suddenly, a flame-breathing dragon hurls towards you, snarling and gnashing its teeth, coming in for the kill. Do you wake up from this bizarro nightmare, covered in sweat and close to tears? Or do you stay in the dream, grab your imaginary sword, and walk boldly into battle?

If your answer is the latter, then Jayne Gackenbach would suspect you’re also a hardcore gamer.

Gackenbach is a psychologist at Canada’s Grant MacEwan University and arguably the world’s preeminent expert on how video games can impact dreaming. In the early 1990′s, her son Teace (with whom Gackenback later co-authored a book on gaming) started playing Nintendo, and Gackenbach found herself fascinated with the potential impacts of her son’s new hobby. Namely, the various ways in which hardcore gameplay — characterized in part by regular playing sessions of more than 2 hours, several times a week, since before the third grade — seem to transform the nighttime imaginings of study participants who fit that profile. Those transformations, Gackenbach says, also offer insights into how video gaming might shape an individual’s experiences in the waking world.

“The major parallel between gaming and dreaming is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality, whether a biological construct or a technological one,” she says. “It’s interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate to waking consciousness, when you are actually reacting to inputs from the real world.”

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Last night, I sat around a bonfire, sipping whiskey with my best friends, when the flames rose up in the form of a large turtle with a shark’s head. A creature chased us into the giant carrot where we’d be living. No, I didn’t dose acid last night, but I did go to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what happened once I entered the carrot, because humans have an incredibly difficult time remembering dreams (we forget an estimated 95 percent within five minutes of waking).

Cue Shadow, an app with two purposes: to help you remember (thus record) your dreams and to create a dream database from users across the globe.

The hardware here is pretty straightforward. Rather than megaphone you awake, Shadow’s alarm wakes you slowly. Once you’re awake, it immediately asks you to record your dream via voice or text.

The cool part: It takes all of those dreams and stores them in a digital dream journal that tracks your sleep and dream patterns over time. If you want, this can be private, but you can also add your sleep/dream patterns to a worldwide database. The information from said database will be used to analyze these patterns in general (looking to answers questions such as “Does sleeping more give people more or less dreams? Happier or sadder dreams? Etc.)

“There’s a lot going on in the subconscious mind that if you can start to pull out little details, you start to get a wider picture of yourself,” says Hunter Lee Soik, one of Shadow’s designers. “We’re socialized to think of sleep as inactivity, but certain parts of our brain — the parts that handle things like problem solving and memory — are most active while we’re sleeping. That’s a huge amount of potential data we’re forgetting each morning.”

At the moment, Shadow is a barebones app with a Kickstarter campaign (and a killer promo vid) to further inform the designers of what users hope to gain from it. Check out its (promo) video below.

Scientists read dreams

Scientists have learned how to discover what you are dreaming about while you sleep.

A team of researchers led by Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, used functional neuroimaging to scan the brains of three people as they slept, simultaneously recording their brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG).

The researchers woke the participants whenever they detected the pattern of brain waves associated with sleep onset, asked them what they had just dreamed about, and then asked them to go back to sleep.

This was done in three-hour blocks, and repeated between seven and ten times, on different days, for each participant. During each block, participants were woken up ten times per hour. Each volunteer reported having visual dreams six or seven times every hour, giving the researchers a total of around 200 dream reports.

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rat in maze

Researchers working at MIT have successfully manipulated the content of a rat’s dream by replaying an audio cue that was associated with the previous day’s events, namely running through a maze (what else).

The breakthrough furthers our understanding of how memory gets consolidated during sleep — but it also holds potential for the prospect of “dream engineering.” Working at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, neuroscientist Matt Wilson was able to accomplish this feat by exploiting the way the brain’s hippocampus encodes self-experienced events into memory.

Scientists know that our hippocampus is busy at work replaying a number of the day’s events while we sleep — a process that’s crucial for memory consolidation. But what they did not know was whether or not these “replays” could be influenced by environmental cues.

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Dreams are a peculiar aspect of the human mind, and the scientific study of dreaming — oneirology — seeks to illuminate this phenomena.

Reported in the Current Biology, a recent experiment from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, with assistance from Charité Hospital in Berlin, has been able to reveal dream content by analyzing brain activity of a select few individuals with a unique ability to objectively control their dreaming — known as lucid dreaming. This will help us better understand the neurophysiologic processes that occur while we are sleeping.

Lucid dreaming is when you become aware you are dreaming, and have the ability to then control your dream’s environment. This lucidity usually occurs mid-dream when the sleeper becomes conscious that the physical reality in which they are present is not real. This may be triggered by the peculiarity of the scenario in which the dreamers find themselves.

According to lead author Martin Dresler, “about half of people have had a lucid dream,” though “very few have them on a regular basis.” Although some people have the innate ability to have lucid dreams, this ability can be taught and developed in a way similar to learning another language.

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Trust Us: Why do we dream?

Horizon uncovers the secret world of our dreams. In a series of cutting-edge experiments and personal stories, we go in search of the science behind this most enduring mystery and ask: where do dreams come from? Do they have meaning? And ultimately, why do we dream?

What the film reveals is that much of what we thought we knew no longer stands true. Dreams are not simply wild imaginings but play a significant part in all our lives as they have an impact on our memories, the ability to learn, and our mental health. Most surprisingly, we find nightmares, too, are beneficial and may even explain the survival of our species.

Is your life really your life, or is it actually the dream of a butterfly? Or is it a complex computer simulation indistinguishable from “real” reality? Don’t worry, it’s just a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.

Questions about the nature of reality weren’t invented by high-as-a-kite college sophomores. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi noticed sometime around 300 BCE that his dreams of being something other than human (a butterfly, most famously) were indistinguishable from his experience being Zhuangzi. He could not say with certainty that he was Zhuangzi dreaming of being a butterfly rather than a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuangzi.

The whole “reality is an illusion” idea has been kicked around by everyone from Siddhartha to the existentialists. It is Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom who is most often associated with the idea that we are living in a computer simulation.

His premise is based on a series of assumptions:

1). A technological society could eventually achieve the capability of creating a computer simulation that is indistinguishable from reality to the inhabitants of the simulation.

2). Such a society would not do this once or twice. They would create many such simulations.

3). Left to run long enough the societies within the simulations would eventually be able to create their own simulations, also indistinguishable from reality to the sub-simulations inhabitants.

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What do Moby Dick, the Salem witch trials and alien abductions all have in common? They all circle back to sleep paralysis.

Less than 8 percent of the general population experiences sleep paralysis, but it is more frequent in two groups – students and psychiatric patients – according to a new study by psychologists at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania.

Sleep paralysis is defined as “a discrete period of time during which voluntary muscle movement is inhibited, yet ocular and respiratory movements are intact,” the researchers state in the current issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews. Hallucinations may also be present in these transitions to or from sleep.

Alien abductions and incubi and succubi, as well as other demons that attack while people are asleep, are implicated as different cultural interpretations of sleep paralysis. The Salem witch trials are now thought possibly to involve the townspeople experiencing sleep paralysis. And in the 19th-century novel Moby Dick, the main character Ishmael experiences an episode of sleep paralysis in the form of a malevolent presence in the room.

Brian A. Sharpless, clinical assistant professor of psychology and assistant director of the psychological clinic at Penn State, noted that some people who experience these episodes may regularly try to avoid going to sleep because of the unpleasant sensations they experience. But other people enjoy the sensations they feel during sleep paralysis.

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UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.

The left clip is a segment of the movie that the subject viewed while in the magnet. The right clip shows the reconstruction of this movie from brain activity measured using fMRI. The reconstruction was obtained using only each subject’s brain activity and a library of 18 million seconds of random YouTube video

More here.

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