Anyone who watched Inception for the first (or tenth) time had the same feeling at some point during the film. It went something like, “Man, that would be really, really cool to be able to control my own dreams like this.” Conceptually, Christopher Nolan making a heist movie that takes place in the dreamworlds of others was a stroke of genius in its concept and delivery, stoking conversation for years about the possibilities. Well, now it looks like scientists might have cracked at least one piece of this, saying that new research suggests that there might be ways to trigger lucid dreams in people. We might be able to control this space after all folks.
These recent studies went down by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Lucidity Institute in Hawaii (via Science Alert) and focused on being able to produce lucid dreams in subjects using different chemical compounds that could help kickstart lucid dreaming. The initial focus was on using acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that have been shown to help patients in REM sleep. And one of these chemicals is galantamine which has been used in patients with Alzheimer’s. The results of a three-day study with a control group of patients seem to suggest that this chemical, combined with a certain technique prior to sleeping had patients reporting lucid dreaming cycles.
The technique used in addition to galantamine is called MILD or mnemonic induction of lucid dreams which is said to help people with lucid dreaming. It involves waking up after hours of sleep and going through steps of re-scripting, rehearsing, and reminding (they call it the three R’s) which is said to help folks enter the space knowing that they are actually in a dream. This method and upping the galantamine does over consecutive nights seems to have yielded the results researchers were looking for.
121 people participated in the study and many were folks who have some experience in this space, having worked on the MILD technique in the past. Essentially they weren’t new to trying to manufacture lucid dreams so in this way they already had something of a step up over a random sampling of participants. Over three nights, the galantamine doses went from placebo (just MILD technique) to 4 mg and finally 8 mg. The reported results showed that 42 percent of the participants had a form of lucid dreaming by the third night. And 57% of the people studied reported having some lucid dreaming at least once over the three nights.
Lucid dreams are those in which the person knows they are dreaming and has more control over the events of the dream because of this state of consciousness. The hope of this study, not unlike what we saw in Inception really, is to be able to link lucid dreaming to other pieces of a person’s consciousness in order to understand how they could be connected. It’s a fascinating realm and now it’s looking like we might be closer to having a grasp on just how to kickstart these kinds of dreams for other people. Now we just need to get our own totems so we’ll know if we are dreaming or not.