Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Inception, once more

Some time ago we reported on a study that suggests that it is possible to plant false memories into people, like in the movie “Inception”. Those of you who have seen the movie might recall that characters in it entered states of lucid dreaming in which they were aware of the fact that they are dreaming and sometimes even able to control the content of the dream. Also for this science fiction seems to become reality: Electrical brain stimulation can evoke a state of lucid dreaming.

Ursula Voss of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany found out what brain waves are related to lucid dreaming, apparently a frequency that lies between wakefulness and REM-sleep (the stage of sleep where there is Rapid Eye Movement, which is the stage in which we dream). They applied the same frequency to sleepers during REM sleep and subjects reported that they were aware of the fact that they were dreaming.

The original study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. There is an outline of it on the IFLScience homepage.

We are beginning to understand the brain better and better it seems. Thus, by stimulating certain regions we are able to evoke certain mental states. We also know that neurotransmitters may have different effects depending on which region of the brain they are used in. We reported on the fact that “Our brain is more than a bag of chemicals” in an earlier post. In the study presented here researchers evoked a lucid dream by stimulating brain waves of a certain frequency. In another study, also outlined on the IFLScience homepage, researchers used TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) was used for improving patients’ depressive symptoms. Together, these studies show that by stimulating certain regions in the brain in a certain way we can make some true changes to our experience. Science fiction is really happening.

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