A potential way of inducing lucid dreaming in sleepers has been unraveled by the scientists. According to a study it can be done by applying mild electrical currents to their scalps.
Lucid dreaming is the process in which a sleeper recognizes they are dreaming i.e. they may even be able to control their dream’s plot and manipulate their behavior.
“The key finding is that you can, surprisingly, by scalp stimulation, influence the brain. And you can influence the brain in such a way that a sleeper, a dreamer, becomes aware that he is dreaming,” said Professor J Allan Hobson, from Harvard Medical School, co-author of the paper.
“I never thought this would work,” said study researcher Dr. John Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist and longtime sleep researcher at Harvard University. “But it looks like it does.”
Earlier Dr Ursula Voss of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Germany in his studies showed that a lucid dreaming is a distinctive state that displays traits of both REM-sleep – the stage of sleep in which most of our dreams occur – and waking.
After an examination of the sleepers’ brainwaves over a range of frequencies, scientists discovered that lucid dreamers exhibit a shift towards a more “awake-like” state in the frontal and temporal parts of the brain. The peak in the increased activity occurred at around 40Hz.
The study included 27 volunteers, who have never experienced lucid dreaming before. The researchers paused until the volunteers were facing incessant REM sleep before smearing electrical stimulation to the frontal and temporal positions of the volunteers’ scalps.
It was found that only stimulation at a range of frequencies between 25 Hz and 40 Hz—the so-called gamma frequency range—induced further gamma frequency activity in the frontal and temporal lobes. This gamma frequency activity correlated with lucid dreaming, as reported by the participants.
“I did not have much hope that this experiment would actually work,” said Voss. “For us, it was surprising that you can actually force the brain to take on a new brain rhythm—that the brain really adapts and the neurons begin to fire at the new frequency with just this mild stimulation.”
One impending application of this will be in the treatment of patients suffering from delusions and hallucinations. “The level of consciousness of these individuals may be relatively similar to those of healthy individuals in a REM sleep dream state in which the state seems to be reality,” said Nitsche. “Inducing what is known as a secondary mode of consciousness in which one is self-aware and capable of abstract thinking, may be useful for those suffering from altered reality states.” The paper was published in Nature Neuroscience.