The glove-like device, Dormio, is outfitted with a series of sensors that can determine which sleeping state the wearer is in. (Image Credit: MIT)
Researchers from MIT's Dream Lab are in the process of developing an open-source glove-like device that is fitted onto a subject as they sleep. It lets researchers communicate with the subjects as they slip into hypnagogia. This device, called Dormio, tracks heart rate, muscle tone, and skin conductance. It even notifies researchers when the subjects start drifting into the early stages of dreaming.
The Dormio glove, which is outfitted with sensors that identify which sleeping state the wearer is in, plays an audio sound, like a word, as the subject enters the transitional sleep state. Those words can then be used in the dream content. For instance, if the word "tiger" was used while they were asleep, the user would dream of a tiger. As the subject enters a semi-lucid dream state, a social robot named Jibo, asks them questions about the content of their dream. This is mainly because we tend to forget our dreams after waking up from the hypnagogia state. The subject then falls asleep again, and the process repeats.
After waking up from their sleep, researchers conversed with their subjects and discovered that they can remember those words, sounds and other subjects related to the stimuli.
Adam Horowitz, an MIT Dream Lab researcher, believes that this device can contribute to improvements in memory and creativity as they record more vivid details from hypnogogic states. This makes it possible to interact between the real world and dreams, which has always been impossible to do until now.
This glove-like device was inspired by a very old Steel Ball technique, which was commonly used to explore dreams by great minds like Thomas Edison, Edgar Allen Poe and Salvadore Dali. They would grasp the ball as they fell asleep, and when it rolled from their hands and woke them up, they were able to remember their dreams much better than without the ball. Edison, Poe and Dali very likely understood and utilized what MIT researchers describe as "phenomenological unpredictability, distorted perception of space and time, loss of sense of self, and spontaneous, fluid idea association."
Judith Amores, another MIT researcher, is studying the impact of smell in dreams. She designed a scent diffuser, called BioEssence, which releases a preset scent when the subject slips into the N3 sleep stage. During this period, the body undergoes a healing process and consolidates memory. This is to enhance their memory by using scents. In the follow-up interviews, the subjects recalled memories associated with the preset smells. Amores hopes her technique will help trauma and PTSD sufferers find relief by releasing scents with positive associations when they're experiencing a nightmare.
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