An MIT Lab Is Building Devices to Hack Your Dreams
From improving your mood to focusing your creativity, scientists at MIT’s Dream Lab want to prove the power of dreams
For the third of our lives that we spend in slumber, our minds take up residence in the unknown regions of the subconscious. We dream, though we don’t fully know why. And while these nightly mashups of images and storylines have captured the imagination for generations, modern science largely believes that dreams have no effect on daily life.
At MIT’s Dream Lab, however, a small team of researchers thinks otherwise and is creating technologies capable of mining the subconscious to prove the value of dreams.
“Dreaming is really just thinking at night,” says Adam Horowitz, a PhD student at MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group and a Dream Lab researcher. “When you go inside, you come out different in the morning. But we have not been asking questions about the experience of that transformation of information or the thoughts that guide it.”
Horowitz and his fellow researchers are taking it upon themselves to ask — and hopefully answer — these questions. And while previous research has shown that dreams may contribute to memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and overall mental health, the Dream Lab is pushing research a step further. Rather than simply exploring the role of dreams in our lives, the researchers want to see what happens when they interfere with them.
To do this, the Dream Lab, which was launched in 2017 as a division of MIT’s Media Lab Fluid Interfaces Group, is developing novel and open source wearable devices that track and interact with dreams in various ways. While part of this work aims to legitimize the idea that dreams are not just random mind slush, but access points to deeper levels of cognition, the larger goal is to show that when dreams can be hacked, augmented, and swayed, our waking lives benefit.
“Dreaming is really just thinking at night.”
“People don’t know that a third of their life is a third where they could change or structure or better themselves,” Horowitz says. “Whether you’re talking about memory augmentation or creativity…