On February 19th MONOLITH presents TUNNEL VISION Vol. VI: a film screening of Waking Life preceded by a special guest speaker. This month’s talk comes from British psychologist, Dr. Keith Hearne (BSc Msc Phd). He was the first professional to discover eye-signals from lucid dreams in April 1975, as well as the first Dream-Machine and also the main physiological parameters of lucid dreams. These are just a few introductory questions to wet your appetite before you’re thrown into the sandman’s work on Tuesday.
Your initial idea for you PhD was to explore hypnotic dreaming, what is the difference between this subject and ‘lucid dreaming’ and why did you decide to delve into the realm of the latter?
I have no visual imagery myself in wakefulness (for example I cannot imagine an aeroplane and ‘see it’ in my mind) – people vary in that ability. I devised a method of ‘externalising’ visual imagery in good visualisers, using hypnosis, when I was studying for my first degree in Psychology at Reading University. The intention was to complete a PhD on that topic at Hull University, however it was there that I made the fortuitous discovery of getting subjects to signal from within the lucid dream to the outside world, by making eye-movements (the body’s musculature is paralysed in dreaming sleep). I completed an MSc degree on the hypnotic imagery work, and was then given my own sleep-laboratory at Liverpool University – allowing me to conduct the world’s first sleep-lab research into lucid dreaming.
How do you acknowledge the subject is lucid dreaming? Is this measured in ocular eye movement?
In the sleep-lab, the state of sleep is determined by various established physiological measures – brain-waves, ocular monitoring, and muscle tonus. On becoming lucid, the subject, being perfectly aware of being in a dream, is able signal the onset of lucidity, and other significant places within the dream. The signals in effect are important event-markers in the polygraphic chart record. Specific signals may also be communicated (e.g. numbers).
Are there techniques to get your subject to ‘lucid dream’ or is it simply catching the right dream state?
At the talk I shall describe some methods, including my own F.A.S.T. (False Awakening with State Testing) technique, which encourages False-awakenings – from which it is easy to transfer into lucidity.
What is the process for experimentation?
All sorts of studies can be made. The subject is in a completely different ‘internal universe’, with its own physical laws and phenomena, and can signal simultaneous information to the experimenter in the sleep lab.
And these are conducted in your sleep laboratory, could you describe your set up?
The subject is ‘wire-up’ in a bedroom. Various electrodes are attached – mostly on the head. The wires are combined into a top-knot and are plugged into a socket at the head of the bed. The cables run into a control-room, where a high quality polygraph is situated. The chart record, having several channels, may be inked onto a chart, or displayed on a computer screen.
Could you briefly explain what REM sleep is and what is meant by a ‘pre-lucid REM burst’?
Sleep consists of two states: Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) and Rapid Eye-movement (REM) sleep, which alternate in a roughly 90 minute cycle (eye-movements occur occasionally in REM sleep). Each state has its own distinct electro-physiological characteristics. REM sleep is linked with dreaming. One of my main discoveries was that lucidity is invariably preceded by a burst of ocular activity – this I called the ‘pre-lucid REM burst’.
Could you explain what the ‘scene-shift effect’ is as well as the ‘light-switch effect’ and how these techniques are applied to your experiments?
I shall describe these at the talk on Tuesday. In my technique for externalising the internal visual imagery of hypnotic dreams, using a tracing technique, I discovered a remarkable scene-shift effect, whereby the number of objects and people in a scene are the same before and after the scene-change, and that the colours are also retained – as if the dream progresses by a ‘law of least effort’. The phenomenon should be used in films!
The ‘light-switch effect’ was discovered by me after hearing many accounts of dreams. I noticed a consistent effect of the dreamer not being able to increase the subjective brightness level in the dream – say by switching on a light. Paradoxically it seems to be possible to switch a light off, then on again. The task, given to eight lucid dreamers, unbiased by one another, could not be performed by any of them. The phenomenon has implications for dream construction. My discovery is discussed in the film WAKING LIFE. It is a good way to test for being in a dream.
The ‘dream machine’ sounds like something out of a science-fiction novel, what is that exactly?
My research was very inefficient in that I did not know when subjects would have a lucid dream. I spent 150 nights in the sleep lab for my PhD. I began to think how lucidity might be induced artificially in some way. Normally, lucidity is attained when the dreamer notices a glaring anomaly in the dream-scenery. Eventually, I produced a device, which detected REM sleep in the user (by monitoring respiration) and then gave a sequence of electrical pulses to the wrist. An early dream-machine is on permanent display in London’s Science museum –along with the original chart-record of the first signals from within a lucid dream.