- Researchers used a drug called galantamine that is used to slow Alzheimer's
- Experts say it is 'one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreams'
- Experts recruited 121 participants to see what effect the drug had on dreams
Scientists have discovered that a drug commonly used to treat Alzheimer's disease can also help people control their dreams.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and and the Lucidity Institute in Hawaii found that test subjects who took a drug called galantamine were more likely to have lucid dreams.
Lucid dreams are when people experience a state of heightened awareness during sleep that allows the individual to recognise the dream and control what happens within it.
Forty-two per cent of participants included in the trial had lucid dreams.
They say this new method is 'one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreams available today'.
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Stage 5, or REM sleep, is the stage of sleep associated with dreaming.
Brain activity resembles wake time, but skeletal muscles are without movement.
The breathing is more erratic and irregular and the heart rate often increases.
Researchers wanted to look at chemicals called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEls).
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is believed to modulate REM sleep, writes Science Alert.
AChEls inhibit an enzyme in the brain called acetylcholinesterase that inactivates acetylcholine.
Galantamine is the name of a AChEI that is commonly used to treat Alzheimer's disease which has just mild side effects.
The drug is not a cure for the disease, but it is designed to significantly slow down the advance of the condition.
It does this by preventing the breakdown of the chemical acetylcholine, which as a result increases communication between nerve cells and alleviates Alzheimer's symptoms.
In the new experiment, researchers recruited 121 participants to see what effect the drug had on their dreams.
The volunteers chosen had previously undertaken training in lucid dream induction protocols.
On the first night, participants took the placebo, on the second night they took 4mg, then 8mg on the third and final night.
'On 3 consecutive nights, they awoke approximately 4.5 hours after lights out, recalled a dream, ingested the capsules and stayed out of bed for at least 30 minutes', researchers, led by Dr Stephen La Berge, wrote in Plos One.
'Participants then returned to bed and practised the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) technique while returning to sleep.'
The purpose of MILD is to increase the frequency of lucid dreams using the intention to remember to do something in the future, a behaviour now termed prospective memory.
'To effectively practice MILD requires good dream recall', researchers wrote.
'One begins by remembering a dream, either from a previous night or, ideally, from which one has just awakened.
'One then identifies an anomaly within the dream that is characteristic of one’s dreams'.
Scientists found the percentage of participants who had a lucid dream was significantly higher compared to those taking the placebo.
Fourteen per cent of people had a lucid dream while taking the placebo, this increased to 27 per cent for the middle night and 42 per cent for the final night.
'Galantamine also significantly increased dream recall, sensory vividness and complexity', researchers found.
'Dream recall, cognitive clarity, control, positive emotion, vividness and self-reflection were increased during lucid compared to non-lucid dreams'.
According to the results, galantamine is 'one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreams available today', researchers found.
Back in April, researchers found the brain regions that are key to controlling our dreams.
Researchers tracked the brain activity of people who were dreaming and found that a region called the posterior cortical 'hotzone' is key to guiding our dreams and nightmares.
Their results indicate that the differing story lines of our dreams are caused by the engagment of different parts of the posterior brain region.
Dr Lampros Perogamvros, from the Centre of Sleep and Consciousness at University of Wisconsin-Madison, told MailOnline: 'We have found that posterior regions in the brain are activated while we are dreaming and that activity within these regions correlates with specific dream contents, such as seeing a face, or perceiving movement.
'By monitoring these regions, we also predicted if someone is dreaming or not.'
The researchers found that activity strength in the posterior hotzone can be used to predict when a person is dreaming during non-REM (NREM) sleep with about 90 per cent accuracy.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER'S?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
- Loss of short-term memory
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose ability to walk
- May have problems eating
- The majority will eventually need 24-hour care