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Electrical Current Device Allows User to Control Dreams

A girl sleeps in a dormitory at a kindergarten, a school for children of migrant workers, on the outskirts of Beijing

Thanks to a recent study, bad dreams of forgetting your high school locker combination or giving a work presentation in your underwear could be a thing of the past. According to the study, applying specific electrical current to a sleeper’s brain through electrodes on the scalp allows the sleeper to experience controlled lucid dreams. From Reuters:

For the study, scientists led by psychologist Ursula Voss of J.W. Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany, built on lab studies in which research volunteers in the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage of sleep experienced a lucid dream, as they reported when they awoke. Electroencephalograms showed that those dreams were accompanied by telltale electrical activity called gamma waves.

Those brain-waves are related to executive functions such as higher-order thinking, as well as awareness of one’s mental state. But they are almost unheard of in REM sleep.

Voss and her colleagues therefore asked, if gamma waves occur naturally during lucid dreaming, what would happen if they induced a current with the same frequency as gamma waves in dreaming brains?

When they did, via electrodes on the scalp in a technique called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), the 27 volunteers reported that they were aware that they were dreaming. The volunteers were also able to control the dream plot by, say, throwing some clothes on their dream self before going to work. They also felt as if their dream self was a third party whom they were merely observing.

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