So, you’re floating along one night dreaming of a day at the beach when you hear someone ask a question. You answer correctly then go back to swimming with the dolphins.
But what if it wasn’t all a dream? What if a real person was talking to you, and you were actually responding — not with gibberish but with factual, reasonable answers.
A new study shows this sort of interaction is not just some pipe dream. Researchers conducting similar experiments at four sites around the world reported having limited two-way communication with dreamers.
Dream studies are notoriously problematic because people don’t always accurately remember their dreams, no matter how vivid. Researchers at Northwestern University and institutions in France, Germany and the Netherlands devised experiments to contact dreamers and get a response.
They placed electrodes on participants’ faces and head to monitor their brain waves, eye movements and chin muscles to confirm they were in rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, the deepest stage.
The dreamers correctly communicated about 20% of the time. In one test, a researcher asked a sleeping volunteer, “What’s eight minus six?” The dreamer responded with two left-right eye movements, indicating the answer is two. Other participants correctly answered questions by contracting muscles in their faces.
The studies showed some of the dreamers could do simple math, follow instructions, answer yes-or-no questions and tell the difference between different sensory stimuli such as light and sound.
Will there come a day soon when we can freely communicate with others while we’re sound asleep? The researchers can only dream of it.