Dream content measured for first time

October 30th, 2011 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Munich, Oct 30 (IANS) Scientists have for the first time successfully analysed brain activity during dreams.

They were able to do this with the help of people who become aware of their dreaming state and are able to alter their content, known as lucid dreamers.

Until now it has not been possible to measure dream content. Methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have enabled scientists to visualise and identify the precise spatial location of brain activity during sleep.

However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, the Charite hospital in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig availed of the ability of lucid dreamers to dream consciously for their research.

“With this combination of sleep EEGs (electroencephalograms), imaging methods and lucid dreamers, we can measure not only simple movements during sleep but also the activity patterns in the brain during visual dream perceptions,” says Martin Dresler, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry.

Lucid dreamers were asked to become aware of their dream while sleeping in a magnetic resonance scanner and to report this “lucid” state to the researchers by means of eye movements, according to a Max Planck statement.

They were then asked to voluntarily “dream” that they were repeatedly clenching first their right fist and then their left one for 10 seconds.

This enabled scientists to measure the entry into REM sleep - a phase in which dreams are perceived particularly intensively - with the help of the subject’s EEG and to detect the beginning of a lucid phase.

The brain activity measured from this time onwards corresponded with the arranged “dream” involving the fist clenching.

The coincidence of the brain activity measured during dreaming and the conscious action shows that dream content can be measured.

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