Technologies such as noninvasive brain stimulation and virtual reality gaming offer insights into how dreams arise and what functions they might serve, reports The Scientist.

Dream researchers who spoke with The Scientist say Dormio marks an exciting step for a field traditionally limited by scientists’ inability to interact with their study participants. Many experts define dreams broadly as any subjective experiences people have while asleep, although most projects rely on dream reports collected specifically from people woken up from rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep at which people are most likely to experience emotional, narrative dreams (though not the only sleep stage in which dreams can occur). This time-consuming approach has been something of an obstacle to researchers interested in manipulating dreams—an important aspect of dream research, says Haar Horowitz, now a research assistant in the Fluid Interfaces research group at MIT’s Media Lab. After all, he says, “you can’t do controlled experimentation on dreams without an ability to control dreams.”