Sleep
Representational Picture Wikimedia Commons

In the Hollywood movie 'Inception', acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan narrated the story of a skilled thief who is capable of stealing thoughts from people's minds when they are in a dreaming state.

And now, a new study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has suggested that this idea could be applied in real life, as they claimed to have developed a new technique named 'targeted dream incubation' which allows them to insert certain topics to someone's dream.

Targeting People during Hypnagogia

Scientists have previously found that people used to enter a state called 'lucid dreaming' where they will be aware of the fact that they are actually dreaming, and thus they have certain control over what happens in their mind. Targeted Dream Incubation also follows the same principle, and this technique targets people during hypnagogia, a semi-lucid dream state that occurs when a person is falling asleep.

During the time of hypnagogia, the person will be more influenced to outside audio cues, and they were prompted to think something, for example, a tree, using their own pre-recorded audio prompts. This process was repeated several times, and 67 percent of the participants who followed the audio prompts claimed to have seen the thing or object mentioned in the vocal prompt.

"Simply put, people tell us whether the prompts appear in their dream. Often, they are transformed — a 'tree' prompt becomes a tree-shaped car — but direct incorporation is easily identified," said Adam Haar Horowitz, lead author of the study.

An Alternative to Lucid Dreaming

Humans are used to spend one-third of their life sleeping, and lucid dreaming is a method that can be used to enjoy the moments of a nap as well. However, lucid dreaming is very rare, and only half of the population has ever experienced it. The targeted dream incubation technique serves as an alternative to lucid dreaming.

Tomás Vega, a former graduate student researcher with MIT's Fluid Interfaces Group tested this technique on himself. He used the audio prompt 'Oompa Loompas' from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Interestingly, Vega saw a visually pleasing dream where he was being in a chocolate waterfall. As Vega is lactose intolerant, the waterfall he saw in the dream was also lactose-free.

"So, is my lactose-intolerance knowledge in my consciousness or in my subconscious? I induced this dream content, but there were still some constraints, like, 'You cannot just dream about milk chocolate because that's going to harm you," said Vega, Daily Star reports.