May 12, 2014
Shocks Shown To Induce And Improve Lucid Dreaming
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Although dreaming takes place entirely within the mind, dreamers often feel like they are living in a reality in which they have no control. However, some dreamers can reach a state in which they are aware they are dreaming and can take control of the dream – a phenomenon called lucid dreaming.
While some people try to train themselves into becoming lucid dreamers, a new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience has found dreamers given a sustained electrical jolt of around 40 Hertz can become lucid 77 percent of the time. The neuroscientists said their results provide a new window into the very foundation of consciousness.
In the study, 27 healthy participants who said they never had lucid dreams slept as individuals in a sleep lab on multiple occasions. Two minutes after achieving REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when dreaming takes place, the participants were given either a weak electrical current, between 2 and100 Hertz, to the frontal lobe for 30 seconds, or a fake current with no electricity.
The researchers found that a 40-Hz current often caused participants’ brains to generate brain waves of the same frequency and trigger lucidity 77 percent of the time, as established by later reports from the dreamers. Electrical charges of 25 Hertz also sparked lucidity – 58 percent of the time. In comparison, subjects who were given fake or low-frequency charges never became lucid.
Study author Ursula Voss, a clinical psychologist at Frankfurt University in Germany, said one of the most important aspects of the new study is the glimpse it provides into the human condition.
"Being able to reflect upon yourself, to think about your past and plan your future—this is something that only we humans can do,” Voss told Virginia Hughes of National Geographic.
Tore Nielsen, a dream researcher at the University of Montreal who was not involved in the study, told Hughes that the findings could have implications for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a person is having a nightmare about their traumatic experience, Nielsen said, they could be given a 40-Hz jolt allowing them to take control of their dream and potentially alleviate stress from it.
"That would be remarkable," Nielsen said.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see an entire industry of devices crop up in the near future based on this new study.
People are going to be scrambling to put together home lucid dreaming induction devices based on this 40-Hertz stimulation procedure," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we see products fairly quickly."
In fact, a crowd funding program for a lucid dreaming headband called the Aurora met its goal of $90,000 on January 21. Instead of providing a brain-stimulating electric shock – the device is said to play “lights and sounds for lucid dreaming with a smart alarm clock to help you sleep better.”
“Research shows that those who lucid dream regularly experience fewer nightmares and lower levels of stress and anxiety,” an article on the campaign website claimed. “The Aurora can help you nail that upcoming presentation, hit the game-winning shot or ask your future spouse out on your first date We spend one third of our lives asleep. Why not make the most of that time?”