Project

Targeted Dream Incubation

Adam Haar Horowitz

Groups

The Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI) method is a technique for guiding dreams towards specific themes. Before sleeping, you choose a theme like “rabbits” or “The Rock,” and then, once you begin sleeping, sounds associated with this theme are used to a) remind you of the theme at targeted times and b) suspend you in early sleep stages, so you can still hear the sound even as you dream.

We began this work using the Dormio device for tracking sleep so we could incubate dreams, but since then have used the Masca, the Hypnodyne, and even typical polysomnography to enact TDI and produce targeted dreams. Much like lucid dreaming, targeted dreaming is a method focused on a specific state of sleep and specific stimuli to change dreams in a certain way—and it can be done using a variety of technologies.

The reason this method is so exciting to us is that it opens up new avenues for research. Having a method to control dreams means that we can now do controlled experiments on how dreams influence emotion, creativity, memory, and more. We know from correlational studies and anecdotal reports that different dreams are linked to differ… View full description

The Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI) method is a technique for guiding dreams towards specific themes. Before sleeping, you choose a theme like “rabbits” or “The Rock,” and then, once you begin sleeping, sounds associated with this theme are used to a) remind you of the theme at targeted times and b) suspend you in early sleep stages, so you can still hear the sound even as you dream.

We began this work using the Dormio device for tracking sleep so we could incubate dreams, but since then have used the Masca, the Hypnodyne, and even typical polysomnography to enact TDI and produce targeted dreams. Much like lucid dreaming, targeted dreaming is a method focused on a specific state of sleep and specific stimuli to change dreams in a certain way—and it can be done using a variety of technologies.

The reason this method is so exciting to us is that it opens up new avenues for research. Having a method to control dreams means that we can now do controlled experiments on how dreams influence emotion, creativity, memory, and more. We know from correlational studies and anecdotal reports that different dreams are linked to different outcomes—regarding processing trauma, or creative performance, or emotion in the daytime—but we still are lacking solid scientific evidence for a causal effect of guiding dreams to improve these outcomes.

This targeted dreaming method was central to a thesis, linked here, and was just published as a paper in the journal Consciousness and Cognitionlinked here. This paper forms part of the journal’s larger Special Issue on Dream Engineering, collecting papers from sleep scientists around the world on their methods for researching and guiding dreams. This Special Issue came out of the Dream Engineering workshop which the MIT Media Lab and Fluid Interfaces group hosted in 2019, gathering a community of researchers from around the world to empower the field and link technologists with scientists. Together we’re hoping to spawn questions about the parts of our minds which can be hard to see, and make the tools that make answering them possible.