In the future, science may develop ways to control cognitive functions enhanced by sleep, "using sleep and dreams as a tool the way we use learning and teaching while we are conscious," he said.
In one study, he and colleagues successfully manipulated the content of rats' dreams with a tone they had used earlier to direct the animals as they navigated a maze. The tone caused the rats to dream of the section of the maze they had been taught to associate with that tone.
No one can speak to the value of sleep more than someone deprived of it. Alan Berliner, a filmmaker who explored his own insomnia in his 2006 documentary "Wide Awake." offered that perspective to the discussion. [5 Fun Facts About Sleep]
"Every night when I put my head on the pillow, it's like an adventure," Berliner says in a clip of the film played during the discussion. He described songs, particularly Leonard Cohen's "In My Secret Life," looping in his head and his thoughts racing uncontrollably.
"I started to think the expression human error means sleepiness," he said in the film.
The discussion, presented in collaboration with the Imagine Science Film Festival, was moderated by Tim McHenry of the Rubin Museum of Art.
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