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Study: Zapping Sleeping Brains Allows Dreamers To Control Their Dreams

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When dreamers were zapped with a current of 40 Hertz, 77 percent of the time they reported having a lucid dream.(Photo: Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

When dreamers were zapped with a current of 40 Hertz, 77 percent of the time they reported having a lucid dream.(Photo: Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CBS Connecticut) – A zap of electricity while your sleeping can give you awareness of your dreams, reports Live Science.

Researchers placed electrodes on the scalps of 27 participants, who were not lucid dreamers, to stimulate the frontal cortex, and recreate the gamma wave activity that has been seen in those who are lucid dreamers.

Over four nights, they applied the 30-second bolts of electrical currents to the participants’ scalps, two minutes after the participants had entered the dreaming stage of sleep, as shown by their brains’ activity patterns.

The frequency of stimulation varied from 2 Hz to 100 Hz, and sometimes the researchers didn’t actually deliver any electrical currents. The participants were then immediately woken up to report their dreams to an interviewer who wasn’t aware of which stimulation they had received.

The results showed that when the dreamers were zapped with a current of 40 Hertz, 77 percent of the time they reported having what were described as a lucid dream.

“They were really excited,” said study researcher Ursula Voss, of J.W. Goethe-University Frankfurt, who designed the experiments. “The dream reports were short, but long enough for them to report, ‘Wow, all of the sudden I knew this was a dream, while I was dreaming.’

A lucid dream can be thought of as an overlap between two states of consciousness, the one that exists in normal dreaming and the one during wakefulness, which involves higher levels of awareness and control.

“We were surprised that it’s possible to force the brain to take on a frequency from the outside, and for the brain to actually vibrate in that frequency and actually show an effect,” Voss said.

Scientists have previously proposed that gamma waves are related to widespread synchronization of brain activity and an important aspect of consciousness. The new findings add to the evidence that gamma activity is related to consciousness, and make it more likely that such activity is actually causing consciousness.

“I never thought this would work,” said study researcher Dr. John Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist and longtime sleep researcher at Harvard University. “But it looks like it does.”

“It lets us see that consciousness is clearly a brain function,” Hobson said. “We knew that anyway, but the mechanisms are not clear, and this puts a new spin on it.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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