May 14, 2014 - Scientists have discovered that it is possible to induce lucid dreaming in sleepers by applying mild electrical currents to their scalps, a study says.
Lucid dreaming is when a sleeper recognises they are dreaming and may even be able to manipulate the dream's plot and control their behaviour.
"The key finding is that you can, surprisingly, by scalp stimulation, influence the brain. And you can influence the brain in such a way that a sleeper, a dreamer, becomes aware that he is dreaming," said Professor J Allan Hobson, from Harvard Medical School, who co-authored the paper published in Nature Neuroscience.
Previous research, led by Dr Ursula Voss of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Germany, suggests lucid dreaming is a unique state that displays aspects of both REM-sleep – the stage of sleep in which most of our dreams occur – and waking. By examining the sleepers' brainwaves over a range of frequencies, scientists have found that lucid dreamers demonstrate a shift towards a more "awake-like" state in the frontal and temporal parts of the brain, with the peak in increased activity occurring around 40Hz.
"Lucid dreaming is a very good tool to observe what happens in the brain and what is causally necessary for secondary consciousness," Voss said.
Now Voss and her team have reported that it is possible to induce lucid dreaming by delivering electrical stimulation, in the form of an alternating current to a sleeper's scalp at this frequency.