Yep, this is your sign to re-watch “Inception.”
The way Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie puts it, time dilates when we’re dreaming, where a minute in reality can stretch to an hour in the dream world. Now, a breakthrough experiment has debunked this by establishing a logical dialogue with lucid dreamers in real-time (sorry, Leo).
The study was published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology by researchers from the Northwestern University in Illinois. Dubbed “interactive dreaming,” the bizarre phenomenon was achieved when lucid dreamers, or those who are aware they are in a dream, were able to respond to simple yes-no questions and math problems.
“There are studies of lucid dreamers communicating out of dreams, and also remembering to do tasks,” said Karen Konkoly, co-author of the paper and a member of the Northwestern University Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, in an interview. “But there’s a fairly limited amount of research on the stimuli going into lucid dreams.”
So how exactly did they achieve this?
The research team recruited 36 people and instructed them about ocular responses, or responses using patterns of eye movements. Then, they were asked to fall asleep in laboratories across Europe and North America and to enter a lucid state while sleeping. The pool of participants included both those who have practiced lucid dreaming, including a narcoleptic, and those who are less experienced with it.
Electrode sensors are attached next to the participants’ eyes, scalps, and chins to measure eyeball movement and brainwaves to confirm that they are in a deep sleep state. Some of them confirmed that they are lucid dreaming through ocular responses and facial contortions.
One 19-year-old American participant was asked a math question – eight minus six – to which he responded with “two” eye movements that panned left to right. He repeated the correct motion when he was asked the question again.
Around 18 percent of the trials yielded a similar degree of clear and accurate communication from the dreamer; 17 percent gave indecipherable responses, 3 percent gave incorrect responses, while 60 percent did not induce any sort of response whatsoever.
The best part is that several participants were able to recall the interaction even after they were roused from their deep sleep state. Some conveyed that the stimuli sounded like they come from a speaker that was clearly resonating from outside their dream.
For the research team, this opens a variety of windows through which they can further test their hypotheses regarding two-way communication with lucid dreamers, and lucid dreaming at large.
“We have a lot of different ideas and we’re excited to test them,” Konkoly concluded.