In a dream, fluorescent lights flicker above your head. It’s a short, short, long,… it’s a long, long dream. It’s Morse Code, sent by a scientist in the waking universe to watch you sleep under a controlled light. To reply, you must shift your eyes four times to indicate your response after receiving the entire message.
During a lucid dream, people are aware they’re dreaming. These dreams are often experienced by skilled lucid dreamers who can recall instructions before they fall asleep. This allows dreamers to respond to prompts from researchers in a laboratory setting, often by using strategic eye movements. Researchers reported in April that they had spoken to lucid dreamers and the dreamers responded.
“When I first saw it happening, I was like, ‘This can’t be real,’ ” says lead author Karen Konkoly, cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, recalling her first successful trial when a sleeping test subject gave the predetermined eye signal that he was in a lucid dream, then accurately answered a basic math question she asked him.
The report, published in Current Biology, unites independent efforts from researchers in the U.S., France, Germany and the Netherlands who had all established two-way communication with lucid dreamers. To present math problems to their subjects, some used Morse code lights or verbal cues. Others asked questions. Participants responded with eye movements and facial twitches, while others used facial twitches. The results of all the methods were consistent. Lucid dreamers can read messages, respond to them and think about them — all while they are asleep.
The groundwork for the study was laid decades ago. 1984, was the first study to establish that a single lucid dreamer could count and communicate how many electrical shocks he had received. Researchers say that this is the first study to establish a real dialogue. Applications for this insight are still open.
Before we start having in-depth conversations with dreamers, barriers remain — such as preventing the sleepers from waking up. This work is hoped to open new doors for understanding dreams and brain function during sleep. You might also start to improve your lucid dreams skills.
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