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A Proposed Study of Hypnagogia by Dan McKinnon. Do you remember your last Hypnagogic Experience?. Hypnagogia & Memory. Some Preliminary Observations with an Experimental Procedure for the study of Hypnagogic Imagery and State Dependent Memory. What is Hypnagogia?.

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A Proposed Study of Hypnagogia by Dan McKinnon

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A proposed study of hypnagogia by dan mckinnon

A Proposed Study of Hypnagogia by Dan McKinnon

Do you remember

your last

Hypnagogic Experience?

Hypnagogia memory

Hypnagogia & Memory

  • Some Preliminary Observations with an Experimental Procedure for the study of Hypnagogic Imagery and State Dependent Memory

What is hypnagogia

What is Hypnagogia?

  • The unique state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.

  • A semi-sleep or near-sleep state

  • Images arise in one or more of our five sensory modalities

Hypnagogic images are

...spontaneous, vivid, fleeting and often significant

…flashing lights, colors, pin wheels, faces, shadow shapes, landscapes, even dreamlets

…sometimes in the form of (LEBs) auto-symbolic material

…sometimes almost psychedelic,

…creative insights and solutions

Hypnagogic Images are...

How common is hypnagogia

How common is Hypnagogia?

Virtually everyone experiences it, but often there’s a fear

it may be a personal

pathology or abnormality

How about a couple of examples

Probably the most famous example comes from Kekule’s discovery of the benzene molecule while dozing in front of a fire….

Edgar Allan Poe spoke of his hypnagogia experiences as…

The literature is filled with examples of hypnagogia.

How about a couple of examples...

Is there an empirical basis for hypnagoia

Is there an empirical basis for hypnagoia?

  • Yes, brain wave activity correlates with hypnagogic experiences.

  • EEG Biofeedback: 4 frequency bands of brain wave activity identified:

Brain waves and you

Brain waves and you

  • Beta 12+ Hz, normally Cs zone

  • Alpha 8-12 Hz, the meditative zone

  • Theta 4-7 Hz, the hypnagogic zone

  • Delta < 4Hz, Ucs zone, asleep

Many researchers have linked the theta state hypnagogia

Many researchers have linked the theta state & hypnagogia.

Eeg biofeedback confirming the connection

EEG Biofeedback: Confirming the Connection

  • Where there is a theta brain wave state hypnagogic images can and do arise.

  • One only has to manage their arousal gradient between wakefulness & sleep.

  • “walking” to sleep vs. “falling” to sleep.

The experiment hypnagogia state dependent memory

The experiment: Hypnagogia & State-dependent memory.

The question: Is a person’s recall for hypnagogic images better when they are in the theta state?

The participants

12 grad.psych. students volunteers

One day seminar - two parts:

Morning (3 hr) - lecture & disc. on Hypnagogia & biofeedback

Afternoon (5 hr) - 4 EEG training periods

practiced observing & coding H.I.s arising in theta state

60 days later recall test mirrored this afternoon session

The Participants

The participants1

The Participants

  • Treated in accordance with CPA Code of Ethics/Guidelines

  • Fully informed of rights & choices

  • Signed informed consent agreement

  • No one was paid for participation in the seminar or study.

Stimuli and apparatus

Complete a demogr. info sheet and disc. familiarity with: EEG, H.I., & ASCs

EEG devices were Discovery Eng. 2000

EEG recorded at occipital & parietal lobes

900 Hz feedback tone for Alpha, 400 Hz feedback tone for Theta, no tones selected for Beta and Delta


Participant heard tones via ear phones

Stimuli and Apparatus

Stimuli and apparatus1

Stimuli and Apparatus

  • Sony SVA300 voice-activated recorder to document H.I.s at EEG training and testing

  • Recall performance measured by:

  • 3 independent raters analyzed the recordings of H.Is for…

  • …key semantic content phrases & key word descriptors

Stimuli and apparatus2

Stimuli and Apparatus

  • Raters compared and batched “keys” and set a 10 pt. recall schema for each H.I. for each participant

  • Compared training “keys” with testing recall recordings for matching and assigned a recall performance % for each, 1/10 = 10%, 7/10 = 70%



  • 5 days prior to seminar, “paperwork”

  • Saturday seminar, 8:30 am - 6:00 pm

  • Incidental Learning Model, not told about subsequent testing session…felt practice could diminish initial state dependent learning effects



  • First, the H.I. & EEG lecture (90min.)

  • Described “file-tabbing” for encoding specificity, depth of processing and as reference label during recall test.

  • Demonstrated the afternoon’s EEG and H.I. Training protocol using a volunteer for a full session



Instructed all participants that in afternoon session each of them would complete 4 identical EEG and H.I. training sessions.



  • After lunch, each participant assigned to fully equipped private training room

  • Coached on operating EEG and reminded of morning’s demo session

  • Achieved theta state, harvested H.I.s, file tabbed H. I.s and recorded same

  • To stay alert, 15 min. break between 45 min. training sessions (4).



  • 30 min. windup period to ensure all participants were alert and debriefed

  • Offered one hour private debriefing

  • Informed about 45 day followup

  • No one required private debriefing



  • 45 days later each participant had a private EEG & H. I. recall test session

  • Afternoon sessions…circadian rhythms

  • Randomly assigned to either the experimental group (6) - identical session to training or the control group - identical session to training with one exception...



  • Introduction of an “attention placebo control condition” just before tested for recall of file tabbed H.I.s

  • Finger tapping to block theta activity

  • Why, no theta prevents the person from slipping into original state like the EG



Achieve Theta State

Given randomly assigned file tab and asked to recall in detail for recording

Tested on all H.I.s from training session


Achieve Theta State

Finger tap for Attention Placebo

Given randomly assigned file tab and asked to recall in detail for recordign

Tested on all H.I.s from training session




  • Both EG & CG recall responses recorded and submitted to the independent raters for comparison, coding and scoring using the ten point schema developed from the training session.

  • Thanks and will mail a copy of study once complete.

Hypnagogia memory the end

Hypnagogia & MemoryThe End

  • You tell me. Who will remember their hypnagogic images better - EG or CG?

  • SD theory says…EG, but??

  • Suggestions, Questions, Enhancements

  • Remember. Try “walking” into sleep tonight, maybe you’ll meet your hypnagogic images on the way.

  • Thanks for listening.

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