We're one step closer to on-demand dreaming you can control, after a recent study showed that applying a mild electrical current to the scalp can induce lucid dreaming. It sounds a little bit like Inception, only with more science and less espionage. It also sounds pretty fun.
The study itself was pretty simple. Based on previous research that suggested lucid dreaming was a unique state with properties of both REM sleep and waking, Dr. Ursula Voss of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Germany and her team applied electrical stimulation to the brains of 27 subjects while they slept. Neither the experimenter nor the subject knew how much of an electric shock was being administered—if any at all—but brains scans showed an increase in brain activity in the frontal and temporal areas at around 40-hertz. This also happens to be the same frequency at which Dr. Voss's previous experiments showed lucid dreaming took place.
The correlation is no coincidence. The experimenters found that the electrical stimulation not only "influences ongoing brain activity" but also "induces self-reflective awareness in dreams." In other words, it causes lucid dreaming. Scientists hope this new technique will help with psychiatric research, especially for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.
This isn't the first technique that's claimed to induce lucid dreaming. Over the years, all kinds of silly masks and glasses have claimed to provide an Inception-like experience. This one seems just, well—it seems more scientific. [Nature Neuroscience via Guardian]