With unmistakable 1983 haircuts and a catchy hook, The Romantics could “hear the secrets that you keep when you’re talking in your sleep.” Those secrets didn’t lead to full-blown conversations, but could they? A summary of a new study from Northwestern University reveals that someone in the middle of a dream can indeed understand and even answer questions.
It’s a step beyond so-called “lucid dreaming” that hints at unusual possibilities for exploring the human psyche. “Scientists attempted to speak to people during lucid dreams,” writes Amy Woodyatt. “While lucid dreaming, people report that they are aware that they are dreaming, and often say they are able to direct or manipulate the dream’s content to some degree.”
According to Woodyatt, scientists studied 36 people with varied experiences of lucid dreaming, establishing two-way conversations and asking questions using sensory stimulation, including touching, beeping noises, and flashing lights.
“We presented questions to individuals in the midst of lucid dreams, and they were able to answer with eye movements or muscle contractions,” Karen Konkoly, cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern and one of the paper’s authors, told CNN over email.
Woodyatt reports that researchers found the dreamers could follow instructions to do simple mathematical equations, answer “yes-no” questions, and differentiate between visual tactile and auditory sensory stimuli. Konkoly added: “This demonstrates it is possible to correctly perceive external stimuli and perform the operations necessary for answering, all while remaining asleep.”