TDI: Dream Incubation Device Tested By MIT

by Krishnendu K

TDI: Dream Incubation Device Tested By MIT

January 19, 2020

Do you ever wake up from sleep wishing that you could see the climax of the dream you were so passionately enjoying? Well, you are not alone in that boat.

Dreams aren’t just limited to being the figments of our thoughts. They have long ignited scientific fervor and research tendencies in human beings. To comprehend the significance of dreams, we can look back on how it was due to ‘dreams’ that the world saw the rise of one of the most widely recognized, controversial, and critical pioneers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, whose The Interpretation of Dreams introduced the theories of the subconscious mind.

Apart from Freud, dreams have inspired a lot of fascinating theories, both scientific and fantastical. And, now that we are in the 21st century, the credo of curiosity has led us to the juncture where it might be possible for us to ‘choose‘ what we see in our dreams!

To think of good things before you got to sleep has been an age-old practice. The expectation is that the right thoughts will seep into your dreams. While there hasn’t been any proof for this tradition, scientists from MIT have created the tech which might turn this belief into a reality.

The experimental setup Oscar Rosello
Prototype of the TDI device

Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI)

The rare state of being aware of what you dream while asleep is called ‘lucid dreaming.’ Studies have shown that ‘sleepers’ can use this subconscious awareness to shape their dreams.

Scientists have used the concept of lucid dreaming to create a technology that uses Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI). Targeted dream incubation is used to guide dreams towards specific themes. In their study, scientists combined a sleep-tracking device called ‘Dormio’ with an app to insert particular topics and themes in people’s dreams.

TDI dominates an early sleeping stage called hypnagogia. It gives targeted information to the subject in their semi-lucid setting. Thereby, it incorporates information directly into one’s thoughts.

The experiment on targeted dreaming involved the hand-worn sleep tracker, which monitored the heart rate, hand movements, and electrical changes on the skin to identify if the subject had entered hypnagogia. The tracker communicates the status with the app, after which the app gives audio cues.

The subjects recorded the audio prompts and included commands like “remember to think of a tree.” Afterward, participants recorded a journal about what they had dreamt. The results showed that 67% of people had dreams that involved trees. The experiment was a success; although some dreams were quite bizarre, that’s just the way plans are supposed to be like.

The Dormio wrist devic Image Credit Oscar Rosello
The Dormio wrist device itself.

How would it benefit us?

According to the lead author of the study Adam Horowitz, targeted dreaming could help in creative brainstorming. Dreaming has been considered beneficial to treat issues like PTSD. Further experiments with targeted dreaming might yield breakthrough results in curing various mental problems.

Dormio, the sleep tracking app created by MIT scientists, gives cues on the user’s sleep state and voices out commands. This happens when the sleeper enters a semi-lucid sleep stage.

Based on the dream journals that the participants wrote after the experiment, a study was published in Consciousness and Cognition. This can potentially help in getting breakthrough results in the treatment of various mental health problems and assist in the field of AI.


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