An incredible report appearing in New Scientist ["Hijack your own dreams to improve your skills"] reveals astonishing breakthrough research by a Yale University team: dreams can be utilized to sharpen abilities and enhance social skills in the real world.
While using this enhanced learning technique may not endow the dreamer with the talents of a concert pianist or the ability to pilot a jet aircraft, the technique can increase cognitive skills, sharpen perception and awareness, and assist the brain in tweaking new motor skills.
Learn while you sleep
Not long after Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, some researchers began to wonder if people could learn new things while sleeping. Scientists conducted experiments playing recordings in the hopes that the sleeping subjects might retain some or all of the audio information fed into their minds while they slept.
Although early research seemed promising—and a slew of companies promoted the idea of "sleep-learning"—a series of electroencephalography studies of the sleeping brain conducted in 1956 seemed to discredit the validity of the concept.
Nevertheless, the idea of learning while sleeping, a seemingly effortless method to acquire new skills, sufficiently intrigued the public. The promise of effortless learning induced many into parting with cash to buy audio tapes promising to teach them foreign languages, history, even master higher mathematics.
The rise of neuro-linguistic programming
During the 1980s, studies on the brain's ability to envision events and play them back like a movie intrigued neurologists. Some studies suggested that the brain could be self-programmed and overcome psychological or social impediments that might otherwise hold an individual back from succeeding at certain skills or tasks.
A series of experiments were done with professional athletes like golfers and baseball players and the results seemed to indicate increases in performance.
Eventually the concept of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) formed.
While NLP never became a formal science, it did become a very successful marketing venture spinning off every type of self-improvement course imaginable. Based on the results of the research, NLP promoters promised better golf scores, a better love life, a more enriching career…even the ability to walk barefoot over hot coals without pain or blistering.
Yale research the latest to link sleep to 'procedural memories'
According to the Society for Neuroscience, other studies with humans and animals have uncovered evidence that sleep is an integral part of the learning process. They note: "In particular it seems to secure memories, termed procedural memories, which help people learn skills. Thanks to procedural memories, you can master a video game, a gymnastics move or a melody on the piano."
The research from Yale is especially fascinating because it ties the concept of procedural learning to a formally little understood aspect of the dreamworld called "lucid dreaming." Dutch psychiatrist and dream researcher Frederik van Eeden created the term to describe the sleep phenomenon he first recognized.
According to experts, lucid dreaming occurs in two forms. The first type is known as a dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD). Normal dreams become DILDs the moment a dreamer realizes they are experiencing a dream. At that point, the dreamer can take charge of the dream and become like a film director controlling the characters, events and action.
The second type of lucid dream is much more spectacular. Known as a wake-initiated lucid dream (with the appropriate acronym WILD), a dreamer will slip from a wide-awake conscious state directly into a dream state. Also known as "waking-dreams," those that experience the startling phenomenon often cannot distinguish between reality and the dream as the two seem to blend into a seamless experience in the mind and are later recalled by the brain as real events, not dream-induced events.
Studies by sleep researchers into WILDs have linked alien abduction experiences and encounters with angelic beings to the altered consciousness of waking-dreams.
Dr. Peter Morgan at Yale is certain the region of the brain responsible for producing lucid dreaming can be trained so individuals can utilize it as an enhanced learning tool. "We know that by engaging circuits in the brain we can change its architecture," he said.
Perhaps Morgan and his team at Yale should contact Michael Raduga at the OOBE Research Center in Los Angeles. Raduga and his researchers have been teaching subjects how to initiate lucid dreaming for years.