Want to Control Your Own Dreams? MIT Scientists Say This New Device Makes It Possible
From Inception to the anime classic Paprika, science-fiction is filled with devices that let people manipulate dreams. Though researchers have started work on machines that can read your mind and translate thoughts into text, the realm of sleep has remained relatively unexplored...until now.
Scientists at MIT are working on the third generation of a device called Dormio, which is already being described as "workable system for dream control."
Surprisingly, Dormio isn't concerned with REM sleep, the deep stage of sleep where most dreams occur—instead, it's focused on the hypnagogic state, the area between waking and dreaming.
In hypnagogia, people can experience vivid 'microdreams' and even auditory and visual hallucinations, along with strong bursts of creativity.
During hypnagogia, a person can still speak and hear people talking to them, but their thinking begins to change.
Adam Horowitz, one of the researchers associated with the Dormio project, describes it like this:
"You lose a lot of frontal function, which means you're hyper-associative, you have a loss of sense of self, a loss of sense of time, a loss of sense of space, and people have a much easier time with divergent thinking, which is tightly tied to coming up with innovative and weird solutions that you would ignore if you're fully awake."
Dormio works by monitoring a person's muscle tension in their palm and pinpointing the moment when they begin to relax, signaling that they are entering hypnagogia.
At that point, an automated voice gives them a prompt, such as "remember to think about a rabbit."
If the person begins to fall into deeper sleep, the voice calls them by name and says, "You are falling asleep."
If the person is successfully suspended in hypnagogia, the voice (usually supplied by a smartphone or robot) begins asking them what they're thinking about.
Some of the subjects reported that they didn't remember what they spoke about, but all of them "remembered and reported seeing the prompt word during their dream state, showing successful inception and recall of stimuli into said dream state."
According to Horowitz: "This means we have a kind of workable system for dream control."
If the MIT team continues to refine Dormio, it may be used to unlock hidden creativity within our brains, trigger controlled hallucinations or microdreams, and help us understand the boundary between sleeping and waking.
Sounds like we need to go deeper.