Dreams on DemandThursday, 2 November, 2023 12:00 pm
In this virtual event, BrainStorm Neuroscience Pitch Competition™ 2022 awardee Karen Konkoly shares her Mind Science-funded research conducted in the Paller Lab at Northwestern University where Ms. Konkoly's graduate program is based.
Dreaming is emblematic of our sleeping experiences. Yet, the functions of dreaming remain elusive. In part, this is due to the difficulty of controlling dreams experimentally. Here, we aimed to develop a method to trigger dream content on-demand. Participants associated two sounds with two distinct tasks designed to be readily incorporated into dreams. Sound-task associations were further strengthened in a training procedure immediately prior to a period of REM sleep. When the participant entered REM sleep, an experimenter presented only one of the two sounds to the participant to attempt to trigger a dream about the associated task. Each task entailed a unique respiratory signature that could be measured objectively during sleep to verify in real-time that the dream has been modified. Before and after sleep, we also tested participants on various measures thought to be linked to dreaming, taking a first step towards understanding which theories of dreaming hold up when dreams are altered systematically.
The practical applications of curated dream content are far-ranging as well—imagine being able to dial up the dream you wish to have tonight. As we elucidate the functions of dreaming, methods to alter dreaming will enable us to harness the benefits of dreaming while avoiding the dysfunctional dreams that characterize of many psychological disorders.
Karen Konkoly is a PhD student in Ken Paller's lab at Northwestern University studying lucid dreaming. Her research focuses on using sensory stimulation during sleep to communicate with dreamers and learn more about how and why we dream in REM sleep.