New gadget lets scientists ‘plant ideas’ in people’s dreams as they sleep

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People were prompted to dream about trees... and they did (Getty)
People were prompted to dream about trees… and they did (Getty)

It sounds like something out of science fiction films such as Inception, but a new gadget has allowed MIT scientists to plant ideas in people’s dreams. 

Researchers used an app combined with a sleep tracking device to “plant” ideas in people’s minds as they slept. 

The monitor waits for people to enter a suggestible stage of sleep, then the app plays a message telling them to think about trees.

Two-thirds of volunteers who heard the prompt, went on to dream about trees. 

Read more: Bizarre dreams caused by lockdown

The researchers describe the technique as “targeted dream incubation”, LiveScience reported. 

The research relies on the sleep-tracking device (called Dormio) detecting an early sleep stage known as “hypnagogia”.

Hypnagogia (the earliest sleep stage) is similar to the REM stage, but people can still hear audio during hypnagogia while they dream. 

Lead researcher Haar Horowitz said, “This state of mind is trippy, loose, flexible, and divergent.

“It’s like turning the notch up high on mind-wandering and making it immersive – being pushed and pulled with new sensations like your body floating and falling, with your thoughts quickly snapping in and out of control.”

Read more: In death, a crow’s big brain fires up memory

The researchers write, “targeted information is repeatedly presented during the hypnagogic period, enabling direct incorporation of this information into dream content, a process we call targeted dream incubation (TDI).”

The researchers conducted dream experiments by repeatedly waking up sleepers as they napped during the day. 

The volunteers recorded audio prompts in the app, such as, “Remember to think of a tree.”

The Dormio monitored the volunteers heart rate and electrical changes in the skin to monitor when they entered “hypnagogia”.

Read more: Melting snow in Himalayas drives

New evidence CBT can help treat sleep, depression cycle — ScienceDaily

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Insomnia causing sleepless nights, daytime fatigue and poor health outcomes is a cycle worth busting, experts say, with depression, anxiety and stress a common co-occurrence.

A study of more than 450 insomnia patients in Australia has confirmed some positive results for such patients with insomnia.

The Flinders University researchers found not only that a program of targeted cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia help relieve insomnia — but also has a positive effect on symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.

“With COVID-19 and many other stressors in life, treating the worst effects of insomnia may have a transformative effect on a person’s wellbeing, mental health and lifestyle,” says lead researcher Dr Alexander Sweetman, from Flinders University’s sleep research clinic, the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

“We studied the impact of depression, anxiety, and stress on response to CBTi, in 455 ‘real world’ insomnia patients, from pre-treatment to three-month follow-up,” Dr Sweetman says.

“Insomnia symptoms improved by a similar amount between patients with and without symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.”

Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress show moderate-to-large improvement following CBTi, the results published in Sleep Medicine show.

Flinders Professor Leon Lack, who runs the insomnia therapy service at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Bedford Park, says CBT for insomnia (‘CBTi’) is recommended as the most effective and first-line treatment of insomnia.

As well as face-to-face CBTi therapy available at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, the expert treatment is also available via telehealth options around Australia.

“The revamped insomnia treatment program at Flinders includes a range of treatments provided by experienced psychologists and physicians specialising in the management of sleep disorders, and treatment approaches which are directly based on the highest quality available scientific evidence,” says Professor Lack.

“In line with many health services during the COVID-19 pandemic,

Researchers used miniature microscopes to conduct first-ever study of astrocyte calcium activity in sleep in freely behaving animals — ScienceDaily

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A new study published today in the journal Current Biology suggests that star-shaped brain cells known as astrocytes could be as important to the regulation of sleep as neurons, the brain’s nerve cells.

Led by researchers at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the study builds new momentum toward ultimately solving the mystery of why we sleep and how sleep works in the brain. The discovery may also set the stage for potential future treatment strategies for sleep disorders and neurological diseases and other conditions associated with troubled sleep, such as PTSD, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder.

“What we know about sleep has been based largely on neurons,” said lead author and postdoctoral research associate Ashley Ingiosi. Neurons, she explained, communicate through electrical signals that can be readily captured through electroencephalography (EEG). Astrocytes — a type of glial (or “glue”) cell that interacts with neurons — do not use electrical signals and instead use a process known as calcium signaling to control their activity.

It was long thought that astrocytes — which can outnumber neurons by five to one — merely served a supportive role, without any direct involvement in behaviors and processes. Neuroscientists have only recently started to take a closer look at their potential role in various processes. And while a few studies have hinted that astrocytes may play a role in sleep, solid scientific tools to study their calcium activity have not been available until recently, Ingiosi said.

To delve deeper into astrocytes’ role in sleep, she and her coauthors used a rodent model to record astrocytes’ calcium activity throughout sleep and wake, as well as after sleep deprivation. They used a fluorescent calcium indicator that was imaged via tiny head-mounted microscopes that looked directly into the brains of mice as they

How Is Technology Affecting Your Sleep?

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Research indicates that adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to function properly. However, not many can say that they’ve had a restful night, and studies prove that technology is one of the many factors to blame. While our smartphones and tablets make life easier in many ways, they might also be responsible for all those times we wake up feeling grumpy and sleep deprived. It might not be difficult to recover from this initial grogginess, but prolonged sleep deprivation is known to cause reduced cognitive functioning, mood swings and chronic health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

If you find yourself longing for a good night’s sleep, understanding how technology affects your sleep patterns can help you to take small steps to start sleeping better.

It Affects your Body Clock

Everybody has a body clock that regulates their sleeping schedule – it tells us when to sleep and wake up. This clock is controlled by the hormone ‘melatonin’. Research has found that blue light emitted from digital screens (our laptops or smartphones) suppresses melatonin, interfering with our body clocks. This disruption causes irregularities in our sleep cycles that have an effect on our mood – making us feel tired, irritable and prone to experiencing anger and hostility. Additionally, there’s also research to show that constant fatigue is responsible for poor decision making in logical, rule-based tasks.

Sleep Better: Start by creating a sleep-friendly zone in your bedroom. Do this by establishing one simple ground rule-no electronics in the bedroom. Yes, this includes your laptop and television! If keeping your electronics outside the bedroom seems too difficult a task, follow the rule of ‘no electronics use in the bedroom’ post a certain time in the night (preferably 30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime). This …