Christopher Nolan's film "Inception" has come in number one all three weekends since its release and looks likely to do so again this coming weekend. As a dream researcher, I'm pleased to hear everyone talking about dreams--what they are, what's possible with them. I'm being asked every day which of "Inception's" premises about dreams are true and which are there only in the service of its sci-fi plot. In this column I want to address each of these as fact or fiction:
Technology will probably advance so that we can see much more detail of human dreams with noninvasive surface electrodes. We can already alter brain activity by pulsing magnetic input to targeted areas. So far this has been used only awake and only on areas for mood (to alleviate depression) and areas of motor activity (to halt motor seizures). It seems plausible we might be able to make someone's dream happier even with current technology, but it seems unlikely we'll ever match the level of specificity in "Inception."
If you want to read more dream researcher's reactions to "Inception," you can do so at The International Association for the Study of Dream's webpage on the film.