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Medicine Science

Electric Stimulation Could Help You Control Your Dreams 138

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A new study suggests that mild current applied to the scalp while sleeping can help people become aware of, and even control, their dreams—a phenomenon called lucid dreaming. Researchers recruited 27 men and women to spend several nights in a German sleep lab. After the volunteers had plunged into REM sleep, a state in which people are unable to move and the most vividly recalled dreams occur, researchers applied electrical current to their skulls near the forehead and temples. This boosted neural activity in the frontotemporal cortex, a brain region associated with conscious self-awareness, which normally gets tamped down during REM. Researchers then woke the participants and asked them to detail any dreams they could remember. People who had received 40 Hz of current were lucid in more than 70% of their reported dreams. The researchers suggest that the technique could potentially be used to help people who suffer from chronic nightmares."
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Electric Stimulation Could Help You Control Your Dreams

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  • by waddgodd ( 34934 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @07:13PM (#46975447) Homepage Journal

    Torn between "Do androids dream of electric sheep" joke and a "we'll remember it for you wholesale" one.

  • That's the smell of your dreams fizzling away.
  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @07:21PM (#46975485)

    ... I was a teenager. Was really pretty cool. Especially being able to fly everywhere.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      I've heard that flying is particularly common for lucid dreaming... anytime I've become aware of being in a dream without waking up (which is usually what happens when I realize I am dreaming), I usually fly as well.

      I wonder why that is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sometimes in my dreams there is a vague opportunity for sex with hot girls. Most of the time a dream like this occurs, I know it is a dream and want to take control over it to take advantage of the situation. However the more I try to control it, the more I wake up, until I'm finally totally awake before I could actually steer the dream in any direction. So it has often occurred to me that the act of dreaming is not compatible with consciously controlling a dream.

        I wonder if there is a way to individually t

      • Someone once told me that if you dream of flying it really means sex.

        I asked her what it meant if you dreamed of sex.

        It would appear to mean you aren't getting any, and aren't going to - at least from her.

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          Someone once told me that if you dream of flying it really means sex.

          Someone once told me "five sneezes is an orgasm." I asked her in what way, and she didn't know what I meant. "Well, does it release the same amount of endorphins? Does it burn the same number of calories? Does activate the same number of neurons? Does it give you the same odds of dampening your pants? What?"

          She told me to shut up, and that was the end of it.

      • Some answers here... [] I remember reading an old Omni magazine article about influencing your dreams. For instance, to have a flying dream, as you're drifting off to sleep repeat to yourself, "Tonight I'm going to fly." I tried it then, and after a few nights of this, I was flying in dreams like Superman.
      • "I've heard that flying is particularly common for lucid dreaming... anytime I've become aware of being in a dream without waking up (which is usually what happens when I realize I am dreaming), I usually fly as well.

        I wonder why that is."

        You're a naked ape, falling from your tree.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @08:45PM (#46975877)
      I worked hard to develop my lucidity. How did you lose it? For me, it never left, and never needed to work to keep it.

      For me, it started with being able to "change channels". When I didn't like a dream, I'd pick a new one. I could also wake myself up. Working on that for a while, I got to where I could "tweak" dreams. add in things, take them away, play with them.
      • by quax ( 19371 )

        "I worked hard to develop my lucidity. How did you lose it?"

        Was taken things too far, experimented with meditation techniques and thought it should be possible to get the same extra sensory state that some drugs induce.

        Problem is, what I did not take into account, is that drugs add an external control. They leave your system and your neural state is (mostly) re-set.

        Messed myself up quite a bit, and really panicked when I realized it. Experienced some nasty sensory overload. Fortunately wasn't really all

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          I'll make sure to never try that.
          • by quax ( 19371 )

            Yes, it was stupid.

            Then again it was at the age that should be list in the dictionary next to 'stupid'.

            Nowadays I hardly remember my dreams anymore.

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Took me to about 12 just to get a basic lucid, and another 5 years to get to full lucid dreaming. Of course, I was a very very heavy sleeper before, and a light sleeper after, so it isn't as good a thing as people think. It came with a downside for me.
        • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
          You can use lucid dreaming to induce drug states. If you're a competent lucid dreamer, you should be able to retain control under almost any drug-induced mind state (almost cause I haven't tried them all).
      • by quax ( 19371 )

        Out of curiosity, can you do math in your dreams?

        I never tried that when I still had the ability, and later found that dreams that involve math were some of my worst.

        They aren't exactly nightmares, but I sometimes had dreams were I am circling some equations and I want to solve them, and are pretty certain I could easily enough when awake, but in my dream no matter how hard I try, I just cannot work them.

        These kind of dreams always left me utterly exhausted.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          I've solved lots of problems in my dreams, some involving math. I've never had an exhausting dream. Though when I solve problems in dreams, I just relax and think about it, not focus hard on it and work on the details.
        • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @07:58AM (#46978007) Journal

          By anecdotal evidence, I can verify at least one person can do basic math in her sleep...

          When I was a teen, my mom would frequently fall asleep on the couch. She would also talk in her sleep. I was able to get her to respond to simple questions, and even do basic math, but nothing more than multiplication. I suspect that since those answers were already memorized, it would be different when asking for an answer that required more than a canned reply.

        • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
          Dealing with symbolism in lucid dreams takes a lot of control, lot more activity in the brain, more chance of too much excitation which will collapse lucidity. It's the reason most people can't even read things in their dreams, everything is just all jumbled.

          That being said, doing math using objects/landscape is a lot easier, it's what helped me when I couldn't understand the way normal people do math. Last dream I 'had' to do math, it was part of a list of 100 tasks to accomplish to marry someones daught

      • That is exactly how it works for me. I can fly if I want to, switch to different dreams like channels, and control some aspects of them. I could do it more often when I was younger but I still get control and switch to different channels if I don't like them a few times a month. I blink my eyes (in the dream) to change channels.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          That's how it began with me, then I decided to try "suggesting" channels to change to. Pick some imagry and think about it while falling asleep (something simple, but specific, like walking through a corn field), and you may be able to change channels to your pre-suggested dream. After getting good at that, my full lucidity came when I'd change channels to the same dream, but with a change. Eventually, I could make the change within the dream without changing channels.

          But with me, the more I controlled
      • I never got that far as to have full control and stay dreaming, but I could always wake myself up when things got very unpleasant, which is pretty rare, fortunately. At one point I started a dream journal, but the problem was after writing stuff down in the middle of the night, I couldn't fall back to asleep.
    • I still do, at 30 years old. Especially when I sleep at evenings, it's almost certain that I will have a lucid dream, sometimes I incorpore the sounds around me in my dream, even whole conversations.
      And yes, is's totally cool when I am able to fly in my dreams, even when sometimes I can't control my flight.

    • I'm of a mind that dreaming is a useful sandbox, and I need not disturb it.

      That may be due to brain research being nascent, or it may be rationalizing my lack of effort to develop the talent. I do hope to avoid the headline "Lucid dreamer? You may be interfering with your ability to $(hobby) in first life. Read more here, $(name)"

      Because personalized ads are more lucrative than basic brain care and feeding.

      • by quax ( 19371 )

        "I'm of a mind that dreaming is a useful sandbox, and I need not disturb it."

        There's just not enough hard science around this to say either way. Don't think that lucid dreaming has been researched much at all. Back then I didn't know of anybody else who could do that, and feared people would think I was nuts if I said that I was able to control my dreams (a fear probably heightened by teenage anxiety).

        At any rate from what I remember I could still immerse in my dreams and let them role, only to step in an

    • ... I was a teenager. Was really pretty cool. Especially being able to fly everywhere.

      Me too. I still have them, irregularly, and I'm decades past being a teenager. They're the best dreams. More often than not they start where I'm standing, and I can just lean back slightly and lift my feet off the ground and float, from there, I can move up, or jump for a jumpstart. Sometimes it's just floating, less often it's full out flying around. In almost every one of these dreams, I wonder to myself why I never tried this before. Usually I go no higher than, say, full grown oak tree height, but t

      • Ever wonder why everyone says that flying in dreams is "great" or "awesome" or "fun"? With everything I've read about dreaming and LD, flying is supposed to represent you reaching a higher state of awareness. The higher you can fly, the better it feels.

        I've dreamed plenty of times that I could fly, hover/float, and they were *incredibly* vivid. Dreams I had years ago that involved flying I still remember in detail. It's all about how you perceive yourself in your dream. It might be you, but you're not in yo

        • That's definitely true, especially your last sentence. Logic is not a necessary element of the fabric of dreams; one moment you're one place doing something or talking to someone, in the blink of an eye, it's all different, you're somewhere else, or the place you just were is different but the same place, etc.. yet it's all perfectly seamless and you never question it: "How'd I get here?"; that part of Inception really hit the nail on the head.
          Sometimes I wonder, if I were in a coma and got to dream
          • Yup. I haven't done research on what areas of the brain are most active during dreaming (or lucid dreaming, if it's any different), but I'd have to guess that it's mostly right-brain. Logic is almost non-existant. There's a "reality check" during dreams that you can perform that relates to it: find a clock (preferably a digital one) in your dream. Look at the time. Then look away. Then look back - if you're dreaming, it will most likely be way different than the first time you looked at it (or even complete

  • 40 hz of current? Looks like the editor is the one asleep.
    • by waddgodd ( 34934 )

      I've got a good deal for them on 60Hz electrodes, only $1,000 each...

    • Re:40 hz of current? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sillybilly ( 668960 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @10:25PM (#46976233)
      The brain exhibits electric waves in the extremely low frequency region 5-10-15 Hz, and there have been experiments where submitting someone to such stimuli interferes with normal thought, even such simple things as motor vibration sounds inside a factory, which are inaudible, but create pressure sensations on the skin or chest hairs and other body hairs, or even creating a "beat frequency" between 2 audible sounds, such a 300 and 310 Hz, which will create a 10 Hz beat, and affect the brain. It is strange that these researchers would find 40 Hz affecting the brain, because that seems high. The brain seems like a low 6-10 Hz frequency massively parallel CPU, with much more processing power than a 2 GHz (or 2 billion Hz) regular CPU. By the way back in 2001-2005 I had a bed where there was constant hum from a nearby hospital-like building, and kind of a resonance zone, and unless I moved my head into an unnaturally edge position, I could feel my skull vibrate from the hums, and I was unable to fall asleep at all. I was aware of the ELF(extremely low frequency) stimulus effect on the brain (my high school physics professor taught me about it), but it didn't bother me that much, as the rent was really cheap, and all you had to do was to physically move your head away from the low frequency noise. Especially the russians put a lot of effort into mind control experiments through ELF, but it didn't seem to work or even have any effect back in 2005, other than just plain nuisance from your head vibrating. I can't say that anymore, in 2014, whatever way they figured out telepathy, it does not seem to have anything to do with ELF.
      • Maybe you should read a bit more about the topic.
        This one first: []
        It's probably tDCS with 40hz pulsed direct current that was used and those who don't seem to figure it out are either dumb or playing dumb to look smart, either way they are lame.
    • by GrpA ( 691294 )

      if 40Hz of current can elicit lucidity, imagine what 40 MHz of current would do !

      Or better yet, 2.4 GHz,,,, You'd dream you were the Internet -

      Well, I'm tired today so I might go get a few amps of sleep...


    • by AJWM ( 19027 )

      >40 hz of current?

      Sure, at a frequency of 30 mA for about 0.5 volt-hours.

    • Units and laymen...

      An interview on the radio a few minutes ago mentioned "a community windmill that produces 5MWh."

      I assume said windmill probably generates 10 rotations and rotates hundreds of amps.

  • we don't need no stinkin' current. essentially: wake up then go back to sleep, with instructions for Mylie Cyrus or your choice of avatars.
    • lol.. It sometimes is really that easy to have a lucid dream. But come on, Mylie Cyrus? Sure, maybe several years ago but after seeing her make out with a foam finger, I kind of think of here like a Tijuana donkey show without the donkey. You know, getting all hyped up and excited until you start to actually see it then you can't stand to be in the same room and swear never again, wondering what you were ever thinking while hoping more and more booze will help you forget the night ever happened.

      It doesn't w

      • Look, I don't like her music, but I would let Miley suck my dick. She's cute. I'd guess a little vacant, but she may be a decent person if you got to know her. Or not. Only one way to find out.
        • I don't think i would kick her out of bed for eating crackers but i also don't think i would give her something to drink after either.

          Things were different when there was something left to the imagination i guess. But thanks to a foam finger, i don't have to imagine much anymore.

  • Researchers then woke the participants and asked them to detail any dreams they could remember. People who had received 40 Hz of current

    Of which 70% dreamt they were Ted Bundy at his execution. Another 10% thought they were they were Horace Pinker from Shocker. [], and 5% thought they were Michael Clark Duncan in the Green Mile []

  • I'm starting to suspect that what really happens is a bunch of junk floods our mind. Then in the instant before we wake up, we start making sense of those signals and remember dreaming.

  • "40 Hz of current"? current is not measured in Hz.
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @07:59PM (#46975673)
    It's trivially easy to give 40 small shocks per second to the temples. Really, I'm tempted to try this for fun. But a small device that could both detect REM and then deliver the 40Hz stimulation would probably not need to cost more than $10. The theory seems sound, and it really could be awesome! I'd love to see a homebrew version.
    • You might be able to modify a TENS unit to do exactly that.

      • NMES units are more fun. They really work: you can tone your existing muscles some, and provide a smooth cool-down and better strengthening when combined with typical exercise. Of course you need no more than a thin layer of fat over said muscles; and NMES delivers one hell of a jolt. Try not to cry.

        So much for getting fit the easy way.

      • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
        No. A TENS units uses AC power, a tDCS device used DC. You don't want to hook that up to your brain.
    • TDCs (Score:4, Informative)

      by h5inz ( 1284916 ) on Monday May 12, 2014 @08:43AM (#46978177)
      It is called tDCS and it has already formed an amateur community, search in Reddit for example, many have bought their devices and many of them have made them themselves. If you are going to try this, then do your research and try to be safe. There are safety guidelines made by some guy here for example:
      http://speakwisdom.wordpress.c... []
      Also there was a study on rats which found that :"Brain lesions occurred at a current density of 142.9 A/m2 for durations greater than 10 minutes."
      Exceeding recommended current will probably give you skin burns long before you reach anything brain damaging. Don't get me wrong though, I don't recommend you anything and I am not a doctor either.
    • tDCS (transcracial direct-current stimulation) devices are remarkable in many ways, and a good - albeit basic - unit can be built with relatively few parts for less then $20, plus a good multimeter. However, if you know little to nothing about electronics - learn electronics first. If you screw it up, you can severely burn your scalp, cause blood vessels in your eyes to explode, and I am sure worse. To be safe, you can purchase a fairly sophisticated device from [] they sell it to boost reac
  • Rekall (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @08:01PM (#46975681)

    Choose your ego trip:
    - Millionaire Playboy
    - Sports Hero
    - Industrial Tycoon
    - Secret Agent

  • by schmidt349 ( 690948 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @08:11PM (#46975723)

    We applied the cortical electrodes, but were unable to get a neural response from either patient.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The thing about this stuff is that there is no way to empirically observe whether or not a sleeping person that is not yourself is having a lucid dream. Which means that all data is of the form "these subjects reported lucid dreaming," rather than, "these subjects had lucid dreams." The difference is that the electrical stimulation of the planning area of the cortex may be just giving the subjects a feeling of control rather than actual control of the dream. Or it may even be effecting the way they remem

    • The thing about science is there's no way to determine if what you're observing is actually happening or if you're just a brain in a vat being fed sensory information produced by a simulation.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @08:33PM (#46975821)

    The researchers suggest that the technique could potentially be used to help people who suffer from chronic nightmares.

    ... my recurring nightmare is that people attach electrodes to my head and zap me while I sleep.

  • There was an article on slashdot a while ago about how frequent gamers tend to not have nightmares because they're so used to staying calm and winning in frightening situations. I can personally say that that is extremely true. That seems safer and more long-term than this treatment.
    • There was an article on slashdot a while ago about how frequent gamers tend to not have nightmares because they're so used to staying calm and winning in frightening situations. I can personally say that that is extremely true. That seems safer and more long-term than this treatment.

      Forgive me, but I suspect that's also adulthood. Us folks old enough to have existed pre-game times used to have nightmares. We (well, me certainly) outgrew them. I suspect it's tied in with growing confidence and the ability to handle situations. Which is what you said.

      • That isn't completely true. Dreams are agreed on by psychologists to be simulations of things your brain perceives to be dangerous so that you feel less nervous and make a smarter decision if they happen in real life. Children are still determining from what they see and hear what is real and what is not. Adults have a pretty firm grasp on it. They simply wouldn't dream about monsters under their bed if their brain found the idea laughable and sincerely unrealistic. But if you want 6 hours of serial ki
  • So, 40Hz aside, how many were lucid if no current was applied? I mean being woke up in REM phase surely helps.

  • You let me know the first time someone chooses to electrocute their own brain for fun and convenience; then we can all declare Darwin the biggest idiot to ever live.

  • Firstly: the study says "synchronous oscillations around 25 and 40 Hz". Secondly: I wonder what voltage they're using...2 amps? Maybe 14,000 Ergs? Or how about 350 grams?
  • I already dream in full color, and I shit you not, feel like I am able to use my senses - sound, sight, touch, smell, taste, etc, as if I were awake.

    A while back, I had a dream where I found a shitload of cash - I recall in the dream saying "Let me put it in this draw,I'll get it later - and the person I was with saying "Yeah, but this is a dream, you'll look there and nothing will be there," to which I replied "Damn, you're right." I woke up after a few more things occurred in said dream, not as soon a
  • This book is one of my favorites. Stephen LaBerge teaches techniques that work very well for me to become aware of dreaming.

    He also teaches how to use the skill for problem solving and creativity.

    One of the techniques for becoming aware is to ask yourself during the day if you are dreaming and look for dream signs, which makes you ask yourself that same question while dreaming and helps realize that you are dreaming, at which point you can do anything. I guess that is where the electric current comes in han

  • If you realize you are sleeping and in a lucid state and decide to just use it like a sandbox playgound and do immoral things knowing that it is just a dream and not real people or things... does that make you bad or immoral? I won't go into detail but I have experimented a few times but stopped because I felt it might affect who I am since nobody really understands how dreams really affect people. There are limits for instance I can not make changes to buildings or the people in the dream, etc but I have
  • These seemingly safer types of tools have been around for years, why not compare to electrically shocking yourself in your sleep? [] []

  • Duane Dibbley ...

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson