Lucid Dreaming and the Enigma of Our Consciousness
The concept of lucid dreaming has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks and even exists as part of enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism, described as “dream Yoga.” The scientific research regarding dreams and sleep itself is steadily increasing, yet it is somewhat of a new science to many neuroscientists. There are countless articles, videos, and how-to’s on the internet regarding how to start lucid dreaming, yet the true underlying cause of lucid dreaming and what exactly it means is still an area of active research among scientists. Recently, more studies have been conducted and have given more insight as to how consciousness is biologically connected to dreams.
Lucid dreaming is the act of retaining or gaining consciousness while still asleep, usually during the dreaming phase of sleep – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. While how-to’s and videos show how to lucid sleep, several research papers from Germany’s J.W. Goethe University and Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have shed light to the various ways how scientists quantify instinctive and intuitive data from participants.
Goethe University has created the Lucidity & Consciousness in Dreams scale (LuCID) where participants who experienced lucid dreaming answered surveys regarding their lucid dreams. Researchers were able to quantify the survey’s data into the LuCID scale and concluded that those who lucid dream had greater control over their thoughts and actions within their dream, had the ability to think logically, and were better at accessing memories from their waking reality.
Max Planck Institute also quantified their data from surveys and concluded that there were varying differences in participant’s states of consciousness. While in lucid dream, participants experienced better “intention enactment” just as Goethe’s study showed that participants had greater control over their thoughts and actions in their dream. Lucid dreamers were not shown to have a better planning ability than while awake. Both of these institutes have shown through their work that dreams and the consciousness are quantifiable to a certain degree, but there are other ways to measure the biological capabilities of the brain while during sleep as opposed to relying on secondhand accounts that are subject to human error.
Various other institutes and universities have been able to use a range of devices like MRI scans and EEGs to eye movement signals. The studies that used EEG and MRI scans showed that lucid dreaming showed an increase activity in the frontal areas of the brain, which are correlated to higher order cognitive functions and an increase in gamma wave activity, brain wave activity that consolidates brain inputs and turns them into memories and such.
While there is a pioneering effort to come to conclusions with the human brain’s consciousness and sleep states, all the research conducted so far is out of reach from obtaining a conclusive answer to how our brain completely functions. That being said, these studies in their own right show that there are correlations that take us one step closer to understanding our consciousness.
Writer: Cindy Wu
Editor: Kawtar Bennani