We’ve all had that feeling: you wake up from an incredible dream, but as soon as you try to describe it to someone else the details start falling away, like sand running through your fingers, until you can’t remember it at all. Scientists have long been seeking ways to help dreamers communicate directly with the waking world whilst they’re still asleep, and one group claims to have made a breakthrough by transmitting music directly from dreams to the real world.
The team, based at startup REMspace and led by founder Michael Raduga, recruited four volunteers who had previous experience of lucid dreaming to take part in their pilot study. Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon by which people become aware of being in a dream state and may even then be able to control aspects of their dreams.
The volunteers spent up to three nights in the lab to try to achieve the requisite dream state and complete the task the experimenters set. Before going to sleep, they were trained in how to tense the muscles of their arms to the rhythm of the famous introduction to Queen’s We Will Rock You – this was to be the musical motif that they would try to communicate back to the researchers once they were in a lucid dream.
Apart from the somnambulant among us, humans generally experience paralysis whilst we dream, so the researchers had to come up with a way of detecting the movements the participants were trying to make even if they couldn’t physically move. They used electromyography, a technique that detects the electrical signal of a nerve impulse being sent into a muscle.
In total, the team logged seven lucid dreams over the course of the study, in six of which the volunteers played the We Will Rock You rhythm using their arm muscles as they’d been trained to do. However, the signals were too weak in some cases, so there were only three instances where the musical rhythm could actually be distinguished, either in a recording or in real-time.
It’s a small study, but the authors say in their paper that it acts as a “proof of concept for transferring melodies from dreams into reality.” And they’re enthusiastic about what the future could hold.
“We transmitted a simple melody from a dream to demonstrate the potential. In reality, there aren’t significant limitations on melody complexity. Soon, you’ll be able to discover ingenious compositions in your dreams and record them immediately,” said Raduga in a statement sent to IFLScience.
There are several caveats that the authors enumerate in their paper, one of which is that it’s not currently possible to tune musical notes in a lucid dream – that’s why the drum-heavy We Will Rock You intro was so ideal for this study.
But that hasn’t stopped REMspace working to an ambitious timeline – they hope to release a device that will be able to help people enter lucid dreams, record melodies from their dreams, and will have other as-yet-unreleased “secret features” as early as 2024.
As Raduga explained, the team is thinking big: “This approach to utilizing human potential may allow us to compete with artificial intelligence in the future.”
The study is published in the journal Dreaming.