Dream Engineering Lab

We investigate the science of dreaming using state-of-the-art dream engineering methods.

Measuring dreams

Manipulating dreams

Research Questions

Dreams and Mental Health

Sleep quality, dreams and waking mental health are intricately connected. Our group has shown that nightmares are associated with impaired emotion regulation, heightened sensory processing, and early adversity. Current research explores how sleep and dreams are altered in different patient populations, with implications for treatment of many sleep disorders (insomnia, REM behavior disorder) and mental health disorders (PTSD, psychosis) where dreaming is disturbed.

Lucid Dreaming

In lucid dreams, dreamers are aware that they are dreaming. Our group developed a method to induce lucid dreams with pre-sleep training and sensory stimulation. We have also demonstrated benefits of lucid dreaming on waking mood. Current research explores methods to induce lucid dreams, examine their neural correlates, and augment dream control. These are essential steps toward potential clinical applications of lucid dreaming, especially nightmare treatment.

Sources of Dream Content

Our prior work shows that dreams incorporate memories into their content across the night, including recent memories of the sleep lab, along with more remote memory sources. We have also found dream content is associated with learning. Current methods include serial awakenings protocols to collect a dozen dream reports overnight, and nap studies with Virtual Reality tasks completed before and after sleep. This innovative work aims to deepen our understanding of dream mechanics and to explore implications of dreaming's role in cognitive functions of sleep.

Community Tool Development

To complement laboratory methods of dream research, text mining is used to sift through increasingly large dream report datasets. The application of natural language processing techniques helps to identify trends and themes in dreams, which can provide a window into understanding their functions and significance in human psychology. Using these methods we have shown links between dream content and morning mood, and between social media content during the covid pandemic and anxious dreaming. These approaches have broad implications for better understanding population dynamics of dreaming across both laboratory and home settings.

Lab Space

The Dream Engineering Lab has 2 bedrooms with polysomnography and audiovisual recording, access to a 128-electrode EEG system, immersive virtual reality, and wearable sleep recording devices. The lab is located in the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine, a highly collaborative research center with 23 sleep researchers, a sleep clinic, and >100 trainees and staff.