A new research in Germany showed that there is a way to enable sleeping people to control their dreams through an electric current applied to the brain, inducing lucid dreams and a heightened awareness.
This technique could possibly help people who suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because they are typically terrified of their dreams which replay their distressing experience and the study's subjects who experienced lucid dreams said they woke up in a dream and was suddenly able to manipulate the world they were in.
After using the transcranial alternating current stimulation technique, researchers analyzed 27 volunteers who reported their awareness while dreaming. The team noted that those who had lucid dreams showed activity of around 40Hz in their brain's frontal and temporal sections. They tested whether the activity was causative or correlative by zapping various currents in different frequencies. Subjects who were not zapped did not report any lucid dreams. This finding suggests that frequency allows the brain to have lucid dreams.
During the rapid-eye-movement stage in an ordinary dream, the person's consciousness does not access past memories or expected future events. In lucid dreams, there are other cognitive functions involved including free will and self-awareness. This brain activity may allow the person to manipulate the plot of the dream. Prior research linked lucid dreams with increased frontal and temporal gamma activity in the brain but it is still unclear if the lucid dream actually caused the heightened gamma activity or if it is the other way around.
The subjects were able to manipulate their dream. For instance, one volunteer threw some clothes in the dream before going to work. They also reported feeling like a third party in the dream, where it seemed they were just observing.
"Sometimes the dreamer gains control over the ongoing dream plot and, for example, is able to put a dream aggressor to flight," J.W. Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany professor Ursula Voss and colleagues said in the report.
This technique and kind of brain stimulation may soon be used for treatments of schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. If PTSD patients of these disorders can lucidly dream and manipulate it to a different and more positive outcome, they might be able to distance themselves from the dream, reduce the emotional distress and start to recover.