People who are fast asleep and dreaming can still interact with someone who may be talking to them, researchers have said.

A study, carried out by Northwestern University in Illinois, involved studying 36 people and their sleep patterns discovered that people can communicate mid dream.

Senior author Ken Paller said: “We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication. We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers.

“Most people might predict that this would not be possible, that people would either wake up when asked a question or fail to answer, and certainly not comprehend a question without misconstruing it.”

Despite much research, scientists still are not able to explain much about dreams and how or why they occur. When people recount their dreams often their explanation can be distorted, which is why the team wanted to attempt to communicate with people while they were asleep.

The researchers wrote: “Our experimental goal is akin to finding a way to talk with an astronaut who is on another world, but in this case the world is entirely fabricated on the basis of memories stored in the brain.”

During the trial, the researchers found that some of the volunteers are more lucid dreams than others, but most people would communicate while asleep. They were able to follow instructions, answer simple maths equations and answer yes-or-no questions.

This study was unique  because it involved applying four independently conducted experiments using different approaches to achieve a similar goal.

Karen Konkoly, a PhD student at the university and first author of the paper, said: “We put the results together because we felt that the combination of results from four different labs using different approaches most convincingly attests to the reality of this phenomenon of two-way communication. In this way, we see that different means can be used to communicate.”

The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

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