Lucid dreamers are more self-reflective than others during their waking hours, a new study reveals. The process of lucid dreaming involves gaining control over dreams, being able to control the events of the nighttime narrative.
The prefrontal cortex in the brains of lucid dreamers were found to be larger than those seen in other people, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry found. This adaptation could allow lucid dreamers to be more reflective than normal during waking hours, as well as providing these individuals with the ability to direct their dreams, as if they were creating a movie.
Metacognition, the human capability for self-reflection, could be related to lucid dreaming, researchers stated. Very few lucid dreamers experience such events on a regular basis, and such dreams only occur a few times a year in people who experience the phenomenon.
Researchers compared brain scans of lucid dreamers to those people who rarely, or never, experience such events. These examinations revealed the difference seen in the prefrontal cortex region of subject's brains. This region received additional blood and oxygen as thoughts were being processed, but this effect was found to be greater among lucid dreamers.
"Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams," Elisa Filevich, a post-doctoral researcher in the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said.
Subjects in the study were asked to complete questionnaires, aimed at gathering information on lucid dreaming experiences.
Lucid dreaming is a popular topic on the World Wide Web, with several Web sites providing advice which they say will help people experience being conscious during dreams for the first time. These sites often claim the skill will allow people to experience dreams with as much clarity as waking life. Dreamers can also use the ability to control their dreams, use them to overcome fears and phobias, and tap creativity, according to online advice.
Daily meditation and regular "reality checks" are said to aid in the formation of lucid dreaming. A nightly dream journal, in which people write down at least one dream every morning, are also said by some writers to aid a nascent ability to experience lucid dreaming.
Additional research will be aimed at training individuals to experience lucid dreaming, to study whether such an experience could lead to increased self-reflection during waking hours.
Research into lucid dreaming and the role of the prefrontal cortex in metacognition was profiled in The Journal of Neuroscience.