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Hacking dreams as self-optimization | heise online

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Adam Horowitz, researcher at MIT, is convinced that he has found a gateway to human dreams. According to his experiments, “targeted dream incubation” can be enabled in the transition between waking and sleeping, reports Technology Review in its current edition. Horowitz calls his machine “Dormeo”, an “interface for influencing dreams”.

With a sensor-supported bracelet and three finger rings, Horowitz measures muscle tone, heart rate and skin conductivity in order to determine when his test subjects reach the transition between waking and dreaming – the so-called Hori stage 3. In this transition phase, Horowitz is convinced, the brain associates especially free. Because after waking up, the blood supply, for example in the brain stem and thalamus, is increased almost immediately. However, it takes up to 20 minutes for the prefrontal cortex to be fully active again, which is responsible, among other things, for action planning and memory integration and sets limits to the free mind game.


More from Technology Review


More from Technology Review

In this phase, an app plays previously recorded audio messages. For example, it says, “You are about to fall asleep. Think of a tree. ”The message not only influenced the dreams of the test subjects – out of a total of 67 dreams (people dreamed several times and always half woke up in between), 45 were directly about trees. Compared to a control group who only thought of trees when they were awake, the test subjects also wrote more creative texts afterwards – measured by what is known as referential cohesion. This computer-based method measures how strongly terms and concepts relate to one another across individual sentences in a text.



This article is from Issue 9/2020 of the Technology Review. The magazine will be available from August 13, 2020 in stores and directly in the heise shop.
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With his research, Horowitz is one of a growing number of scientists who want to use the fact that the human brain continues to work during sleep. For example, Anat Arzi from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has investigated whether test subjects can be trained to lose bad habits while they sleep: She combined cigarette smoke with the smell of rotten fish and exposed sleepers to this odor. 30 percent of the deep sleep test subjects then smoked less and ten percent of the REM test subjects. On the other hand, awake subjects did not feel any effect.


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