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Dreams Are Slow-Motion

Lucid dreamers are offering insight into the sleeping mind

(Photo: Ben Welsh/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Lucid dreamers, who realize they're dreaming and take control of their dreams, can offer insight into the hazy details of what goes on in our minds while we are asleep. Lucid dreamers have been running their own experiments for about a century, BBC Future reports, but more serious scientific inquiry in recent years has begun to answer deep questions about our dream. Can we die in our dreams? (Doesn't seem like it.) Do we dream in slow motion?

At a lab in Switzerland, researcher Daniel Erlacher found the beginning of an answer to this second question. He decided to see if the areas of the brain that are active when we run, sing or eat also light up when we do those same activities in a dream, the BBC describes. The lucid dreamers were instructed to perform a series of steps and gymnastic movements, and they signaled the start of their dream performance by rolling thier eyes a couple times (eye movements, BBC points out, usually translate into the sleeping body).  

Although the lucid dreamers felt they were performing the movements in real time, Erlacher found that it took them about 50 percent longer to do those things than it would in real life, BBC Future continues. While Erlacher still doesn't know why this is so, as BBC Future concludes, "Perhaps that can explain why a short dream can seem to fill the whole hour."

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