MIT Scientists Successfully Control Rats’ Dreams

Our dreamtime seems to be ripe for tinkering. Via io9:

Researchers working at MIT have successfully manipulated the content of a rat’s dream by replaying an audio cue that was associated with the previous day’s events, namely running through a maze (what else). The breakthrough furthers our understanding of how memory gets consolidated during sleep — but it also holds potential for the prospect of “dream engineering.”

Wilson and his team trained a group of rats to run through a maze using two distinct audio cues…and…recorded their neural activity. Later, while the rats were sleeping, the researchers once again recorded the neural activity of their brains [and] confirmed that the rats were dreaming of their maze navigating exploits from the day before.

But when the researchers played the audio cues from the experiment, they noticed a very interesting thing: the rats would dream about the section of the maze previously associated with the audio cue. The experiment demonstrated that the content of a rat’s dream can be biased by re-activating certain memories while they’re asleep.

The researchers believe that this simple example of dream engineering could open up the possibility of more extensive control of memory processing during sleep — and even the notion that selected memories could be either enhanced, blocked, or modified. Wilson is also aiming to develop new approaches to learning and behavioral therapy through similar kinds of cognitive manipulation.

, , , , , ,

  • Mal

    I wonder how may levels down the rat was? I wonder if they put it in a tiny little chair and pushed it backwards into a bathtub in slow motion for the “kick”.

    “I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a rat, a rat that will
    take you far away. You know where you hope this rat will take you, but
    you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. How can it not matter
    to you where that rat will take you?”

    Ratception 2010

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    MIT is always looking for new ways to manipulate people for Uncle Homeland.
    How apropos that they used rats, a species they can identify with.

  • Haystack

    Geez guys, I know it’s for science and everything, but can’t a rat get a break? 

    • Anarchy Pony

      They’ll need more time, and rats, to know for sure.

      • Calypso_1

        Oh yes, definitely more rats.

  • Calypso_1

    Eegads…last night I had a dream that I was a subject in a beta test ‘Lucid Dream App’ version of Google Earth.

  • Wanted

    Dream books! No more reading while awake !!

  • Matt Staggs

    “We need to go squeaker.”

21