Skip to main content

Shocking the brain with electricity can prompt people to remember old dreams

It’s a weird observation that people with epilepsy can occasionally remember old dreams during seizures. Scientists at France’s Toulouse University Hospital have now discovered that this same effect can be recreated by stimulating a particular part of the brain using electricity.

“Sudden and unexpected reminiscences of memories have been described after some direct electrical brain stimulations in epileptic patients since neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield’s [pioneering work] between the 1930s and 60s,” Jonathan Curot, a PhD student studying neuroscience at Toulouse University Hospital, told Digital Trends.

Over the past several decades, Curot said that different types of electrical brain stimulations, such as deep intracranial stimulation or electrocorticography, have sometimes been shown to recreate this effect in epileptic patients. However, because there was no way to reproduce these in a deterministic manner, very little has been known about the phenomenon — which is referred to as déjà-rêvé.

A bit like déjà-vu’s lesser-seen brother, déjà-rêvé involves recalling an experience which a person had while they were sleeping. This difference is summarized in their names: while déjà vu is French for “already seen,” déjà rêvé means “already dreamed.” The researchers in this new study found that this effect can be consistently recreated by stimulating the temporal lobe, a part of the brain associated with long-term memory, dreaming, and forming memories during sleep.

“We have demonstrated [this effect] in six epileptic patients,” Curot continued. “We have trapped EEG signals during déjà-rêvé and we were able to record patients during it and interview them just after these phenomena.”

According to Curot, the discovery is interesting because being able to explore the sudden unexpected reminiscences of dreams without environmental cues can help us better understand the brain. It could also have potential therapeutic application when treating people with neurological diseases involving memory disorders.

“We are [now] studying neuronal activity changes after electrical brain stimulations,” he said. “We use new intracranial microelectrodes to explore the effect of electrical stimulation to better understand how they modulate neuronal activity.”

A paper describing the work, titled “Déjà-rêvé: Prior dreams induced by direct electrical brain stimulation,” was recently published in the journal Brain Stimulation.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
You can no longer use the old Chrome UI, and that’s making some people mad
The Google Chrome logo set against a rocky background image.

After launching a major visual redesign with Chrome 69, Google officially pushed out Chrome 71 earlier in December, but not everyone is happy with the new version. The latest update to the popular web browser is disabling the ability to go back to an older user interface that predates Google's new Material Design language, and many consumers are furious.

Frustration with Google's decision has been well noted on social media in the past month, where consumers pointed out they can no longer visit the chrome://flags page and tweak the browser to use Chrome's older interface. Even though the new Material Design language-inspired UI introduces a cleaner look, and more rounded corners in tabs, some have still found that it makes tabs harder to decipher, preferring the older version instead.

Read more
Brain-reading tech lets paralyzed people control a tablet with their thoughts
braingate paralysis use tablets 2 braincompute

The U.S.-based BrainGate consortium has developed technology that makes it possible for people with paralysis to use tablets and other mobile devices -- simply by thinking about cursor movements and clicks.

The technology uses a miniature sensor to record users’ neural activity via their motor cortex, the part of the brain used for planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements. These signals are then decoded and turned into instructions for controlling software. Using the system, three clinical trial participants were able to use a Google Nexus 9 tablet to carry out email messaging, chat, music streaming and video sharing. They also used the internet, checked the weather, and carried out online shopping, among other applications.

Read more
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more