The idea of the surreal Hollywood blockbuster Inception, where people travel through someone's dreams to 'plant' an idea in his head may not be so out-there after all.
Researchers at Yale have found that 'lucid dreamers' - dreamers who have 'waking dreams' that they control - are able to learn new skills in their dreams. A team is now experimenting with the idea of 'training' people by telling them what to dream about.
People who can control their dreams can use the unusual ability to experience a sense of euphoria, as if they have accomplished something. But new research hints that people can actually 'use' dreaming as a tool to learn.
Being in command of dreams opens up opportunities to manipulate them for learning and training - although it may not be quite as precise as learning to play the violin while asleep.
Instead, 'lucid dreamers' can control areas of their brain to open up and 'learn' while they sleep. What's more, it seems that merely being a lucid dreamer seems to give you an advantage.
Researchers from Yale University found that lucid dreamers perform better in a gambling task, designed to test a part of the brain important to emotional decision-making and social interactions, said a report in New Scientist.
Peter Morgan at Yale University and colleagues think that this region can be trained. Him and his team are working on how to train people using dreams. Morgan hopes to be able to improve a person's social control and decision-making abilities.
'We know that by engaging circuits in the brain we can change its architecture,' he says.
It's already been proven that people who practice tasks in dreams can be better at them in real life.
One Swiss study, led by Daniel Erlacher of the University of Bern, showed that lucid dreamers who 'practiced throwing a coin into a cup were better at the real thing when they woke up.