By Gemma Ware, The Conversation

Humans spend about one third of our lives asleep and while most of us dream regularly, some people remember their dreams more than others. But scientists still know surprisingly little about why or how we experience dreams.

In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we find out about new research from a sleep lab in France that has unlocked a way to find out more by communicating with people as they dream.

It’s hard to study people when they’re dreaming. While researchers can tell quite accurately when somebody is asleep using electrodes to sense their brain activity, there are no neural markers for dreams. That means you just have to ask someone about their dreams when they wake up. It’s impossible to know when they actually had the dream, or really what was going on, as they may have forgotten the details.

Dream researchers realised back in the 1980s that one special group of people could help open a window into the dream world: lucid dreamers. These people have the ability to realise that they’re dreaming and still remain asleep, and they can sometimes control what happens in their dreams. Experiments with lucid dreamers showed that, during REM sleep, they could move their eyes from side to side to indicate to researchers that they were having a dream.

Researcher Başak Türker and her colleagues at the Paris Brain Institute wanted to see if lucid dreamers could go one step further: to receive information and respond to it while they were dreaming.

We thought maybe they would be also conscious of the environment in which they’re sleeping and maybe they would be able to receive information at the same time.

They recruited a lucid dreamer from the institute’s sleep lab to do some experiments, and their theory worked. He was able to communicate with them: he smiled when they asked if he liked chocolate, and frowned when they asked if he liked football.

Then they went on to do further experiments with non-lucid dreamers to see if anybody can communicate with the waking world while they’re dreaming. And it turns out that they can.

To find out more about dream communication listen to an interview with Başak Türker, and Lionel Cavicchioli, health and medicine editor at The Conversation in France, on The Conversation Weekly podcast.

A transcript of this episode will be available shortly.

This episode of The Conversation Weekly was written and produced by Katie Flood, with assistance from Mend Mariwany. Gemma Ware is the show’s executive producer. Sound design was by Eloise Stevens, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Stephen Khan is our global executive editor, Alice Mason runs our social media and Soraya Nandy does our transcripts.

You can find us on X, formerly known as Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also subscribe to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

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Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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