The dream machine from Christopher Nolan’s Inception is closer than you think. Scientists and researchers at MIT have been working on manipulating a rat’s dreams by playing audio cues that are associated with the events of the rat’s previous day. By understanding how memories reflect dream state, scientists would theoretically be able to engineer someone’s dreams.
Neuroscientist Matt Wilson at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has discovered that by exploiting the brain’s hippocampus it could manipulate the experienced events of a subject’s memory while they sleep. The brain’s hippocampus is responsible for “replaying” the events of a day, which is important for the consolidation of memories.
An experiment was used to embed the audio cues and memories together while rats were running a maze. One audio cue indicated to the rat that if it went left then it would find food, and then another audio cue told the rat if it went right then no food reward would be found. MIT scientists and researchers would record the data and then manipulate the sounds while the rats were sleeping. Wilson confirmed the rats were dreaming of navigating through the maze from the day before.
Since the rats were dreaming of the section of the maze that corresponded with the audio cues. this led the scientists to theorize that “dream engineering” could be possible in the future. We just have to figure out how we can place a spinning top in this experiment.