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Vaughan Bell of The Guardian reveals The mysteries of 'lucid' dreaming, which describes (r)ecent research into a kind of consciousness within the dream state is beginning to tell us more about the brain." Research has shown a majority of people have had a lucid dream sometime in their lives, and an industry has grown up around training people to induce them. Some people can do so regularly, and researchers have chosen from these people as test subjects.

I can not induce them at will but I've had both lucid dreams - some quite wonderful, and also what I believe may be an associated occasional downside, night terrors since I was a young child, so this article caught my eye.

Bell notes that the study of dreams has been hindered because scientists can neither see what the dreamer is doing in their dreams or communicate with them about their subjective experiences. Although we can record extensive measurements about their physiology, the best we've been able to do for their subjective experience, so far, is to rely on what dreamers remember when they wake up - until recently, that is.

Even though lucid dreamers achieve consciousness during their dreams, or so they've claimed, some scientists have been skeptical and challenged that this "impression" could itself be a dream, neurons in the brain stem block nerve signals from the brain from traveling into into the spinal chord so that dreamers do not thrash around in their sleep.

The only only channel of potential communication that is not paralyzed are the nerves from the brain to the eyes. In fact, the REM, Rapid Eye Movement, stage of sleep, received its name because the dreamer's eyes look around in the same pattern that the dreamer is looking around in, in their dreams. All of the rest of the nerve signals from the brain are temporarily paralyzed.

In an ingenious, and in retrospect, rather obvious strategy, sleep researcher Stephen LeBerge taught dream subjects a series of pre-arranged eye movements so that dreamers can signal researchers what they were doing in their dreams when they become lucid.  

Using a procedure first verified by sleep researcher Stephen LaBerge, the sleeper can signal to researchers when they have begun their lucid dream by using pre-arranged eye movements. The person moves their eyes in the agreed way in the dream, which occur as genuine eye movements, which are recorded and verified by electrodes that are placed around the eye sockets.

This simple but ingenious technique has allowed a series of experiments on the properties of the dream world and how they are reflected in brain function. These neuroscientific studies have been important for overcoming an initial objection to the concept of lucid dreaming: that lucid dreamers were awake but just relaxed, or perhaps even fraudulent, claiming to be experiencing a dream world when they were not. Studies led by neuropsychologists Ursula Voss and Martin Dresler have shown that the brain activity during lucid dreaming bears the core features of REM sleep but is distinct from both non-lucid dreaming and the awake state, suggesting that it is not just a case of wishful thinking on the part of either the participants or the researchers.

Some of the most interesting studies involve in-dream experiments, where participants are asked to complete pre-arranged actions in their lucid dreams while using eye movements to signal the beginning and end of their behavioural sequences. A recent study by neuroscientist Daniel Erlacher and his colleagues at the University of Bern compared how long it took to complete different tasks while lucid dreaming and while awake. These included counting, walking a specified number of steps, and a simple gymnastics-like routine. They found that the "mental action" of counting happened at the same speed regardless of whether volunteers were dreaming or awake, but the "physical actions" took longer in dreams than in real life. The research team suggested that this might be due to not having the normal sensory feedback from the body to help the brain work out the most efficient way of coordinating itself.

I find this news to be exciting as I used to have these experiences regularly when I was young and they have continued but at less frequent rates as I get older, but a great variety of them. For some reason I never told anyone about them.  I learned fly in dreams and often even to influence dreams.

I was intrigued by literature, mediation systems, and programs proposing that people can use dreams to "travel" outside the body. In childhood, through my teen years, and as you young adult,  I read every possible source of people with similar experiences, Dr. John Lilly's isolation tank experiments, Raja Yoga, maybe a dozen other kinds of yoga and meditation techniques, Edgar Casey, books claiming to teaching one how to , astral projection, Carlos Castaneda's descriptions of Don Juan's and Don Genaro's peyote and magic mushroom induces hallucinations meditation practices, anything and everything that might help me understand these experiences. etc.

After many experiments of my own, which I might mention briefly in an update, if anyone is interested,  I concluded that at least for me, all of my dreams are subjective experiences occurring inside my brain - rich and valuable subjective experiences, mind you, but not gaining information or "astral projecting:, or soul traveling: outside of my body.  

This article by Vaughan Bell does concludes with a discussion of what he calls the "amateur community of lucid dream enthusiasts" a some snotty nomenclature that could be the subject of a whole post. He mentions the New Age movement in which he would probably include many of my explorations with a sarcastic little British kicker, to a survey of the "more technologically oriented community" which I infer he finds more respectable.

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A different article I read a few days ago reported that researchers also found they can induce lucid dreaming with a mild electric shock. Other "dodgy" tricks the "amateur" community are borrowing from the medical and scientific communities are a number of new medications  such as one for Alzheimer's sufferers, have side-effects of causing vivid dreams.

So formal and informal research into dreams continues in all sorts of directions.

All in all one has to admire the creativity of this eye-movement communication. I wish I could work with these researchers because it seem to me they have barely scratched the surface of what is possible. For example it should be quite easy to teach dreamer Morse code with looking up being long and looking left being short.

Also, I know from experience that the eyes are not the only sensory channels open into the brain, but the ear are as well, and I believe at least some sensory nerves must be because I can feel the position of my body. Perhaps only the exiting motor nerves are paralyzed. What I am getting at is it seems as if it should be possible to establish real time communication.

Haven't we all had experiences with those radio alarm clocks where whatever music we set to wake us in incorporated into our dreams? So it might be a as simple as just talking. But if this risk waking the subject up. Perhaps a combination of a flashing red or neon greed light, with a certain frequency pitch, as well as pressure sensor on the wrist, or forehead, in Morse code for an incoming signal?

The world of dreams - a new frontier. And we are no longer alone. A breakthrough that may pay off those who suffer from "locked-in syndrome" as well.


Have you had lucid dreams?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Comments and Posts intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited.

    by HoundDog on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:57:10 PM PDT

  •  Sometimes lucid dreamer here (7+ / 0-)

    I also had nightmares as a kid, including several which were recurring.

    In my mid-teens, I began experimenting with meditation and self-hypnosis, partly because I thought it would be interesting and partly because I wanted to stop the nightmares.

    It worked, especially if I focused intently on a desired outcome as I fell asleep. And as a consequence, all of my dreams -- including the non-lucid ones -- became almost unreasonably vivid and realistic at times.

    I'm 51 now and it's true, I don't dream lucidly or in a story-like fashion quite as much as I used to. However, whenever there is a vivid dream, there is a far greater chance of my being able to take control, especially if I notice some of the long-trained queues. (For some reason, the last month or two I've been dreaming a lot more...)

    Can't read a clock or a book? Ah! I can take control of this. See my old Newfie, gone more than a decade...bittersweet, but it's such a strong feeling I always know immediately I'm dreaming. There are a few other clues, like lights that don't work, or seeing physics not behaving as it should.

    Just a few days ago, I was in some kind of weird "being chased" dream and I found myself on a high sheer drop, about to pitch over. Roughly 100' fall to the bottom if it had been real life. As a child, falling nightmares were the worst -- and among the first I mastered. Rather than panicking in this latest dream, I remembered 'this has to be a dream - anything is possible', and I leaped outward.

    Usually I can just start either flying or having extremely reduced gravity (i.e., I just float down and can jump again to astonishing heights). This time, for some reason, I reached up and pulled the ripcords for a winged parachute I was suddenly and inexplicably wearing.

    Honestly though, there've been a handful of dreams I've had over the last five decades where I am not convinced they just happened inside my own head... I still think we humans don't totally understand this thing called 'consciousness.'

    "Don't ride in anything with a Capissen 38 engine. They fall right out of the sky." -- Kaywinnit Lee Frye

    by Technowitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:24:11 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for sharing these Technowitch. I know what (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZedMont, LinSea, kfunk937, FarWestGirl

      you are talking about when you describe you are falling and you sort of "will" yourself a parachute and then you are suddenly floating down in a parachute. Yes that's an example of what I meant by "influencing" the outcomes.

      Sometime when I was in really creative "flow states" conducting workshops" or certain "facilitated" group sessions I could use a similar kind of "willing" or "creative force" to help create outcomes in groups.

      I do not mean to imply anything super natural. I don understand  how and why those explanation have an appeal to some who may not have other ways to explain our think about some of these kinds of experiences.

      Heck, what am I talk about "they" I've used various metaphysical systems as metaphors, heuristic devices, and learning systems to help think about some of these experiences. Especially, when I was very young.

      I was brought up in a hard-core western scientific viewpoint, but however, many dimension quantum string theory would say we have, like 11, I would always just image there was one, two, or three more for life-force, consciousness, and spirit, or perception, so never really worried about it being in , conflict too much.

      PS. Now I realize how wrong this was, and as a Science editor here I wouldn't do this kind of thing any more. (humor alert) (humor alert) (humor alert)

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Comments and Posts intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited.

      by HoundDog on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:43:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't remember my dreams - except perhaps the (5+ / 0-)

      very end before I wake up - but I physically act them out, sometimes with scary - and even injurious - effect.  

      I have dreamed of falling off a cliff only to find myself lying on the floor, once with my head wedged between the bed and the bedside table.  I was so out of it that I just lay there like a rat in a trap until my wife noticed I was no longer in the bed and came around to drag me out by the feet. Luckily, teeth were not involved.

      There have been times when I have mistaken my wife for a nocturnal fiend attacking me with a knife or whatever and rather vigorously defended myself with that limp sort of karate that the dreaming state sometimes manifests itself.  

      That did not bode well for our marriage until i got one of those full body pillows and put it between us.  Of course I've tried to kill the damn pillow, but my wife is out of harm's way.

      It seems that before the physical activity begins, there is moaning.  Horrifying moaning.  She describes it as the sound that elderly patients in nursing homes sometimes make in a state of delirium.  I have instructed her that as soon as she hears said moaning, she is to roll away from my side of the bed and take up a defensive position.  I'm not sure she fully understands the difference between "defensive" and "offensive," as on more than one occasion she has slapped me awake with uncommon vigor.

      I told my doctor I thought I was having night terrors, and was informed that, no, those aren't night terrors, because night terrors take place while one is for all practical purposes in a paralyzed state.  No, my experience is just batshit insanity.  

      She wasn't sure exactly what medical speciality deals in batshit and wondered aloud if there is such a thing as a psycho-neuro-manikinetic specialty.  I told her yes, I believe there is, and several of its practitioners occupy seats in the House of Representatives.

      Ted Cruz president? Pardon my Vietnamese, but Ngo Pho King Way.

      by ZedMont on Tue May 20, 2014 at 04:02:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  re: "being able to take control" (6+ / 0-)

      When my granddaughter was having nightmares I would hold her and help her change fear to indignance at being made afraid, and take control and change it because it was her dream and she could do that. It seemed to work pretty well, as she wasn't having nightmares due to trauma, just an occasional scare waking up at grandma's or something. I heard my daughter use that technique on one of her kids too.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Tue May 20, 2014 at 04:25:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  if I could control my dreams (4+ / 0-)

    I would never want to wake up.  Who needs reality when for all intents and purposes I am master of all I survey?  It also might help break my dreams out of creative variations on only two or three themes, all involving getting from point A to point B.

    I've had moments of lucidity two or three times that I can remember; I know it's real because I immediately lost all the feeling of purpose and effortless flow that I otherwise have in my dreams and basically stood there wondering what to do.  It only happens very late in the dream and I swear I only spend half an hour or something in total dreaming because I always wake up shortly afterwards.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Tue May 20, 2014 at 04:18:28 PM PDT

    •  When I was younger, it was summertime, I'd (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      merrywidow, FarWestGirl

      often keep going back to bed for 10 - 11 hours.

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Comments and Posts intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited.

      by HoundDog on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:39:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I used to go to bed at 7-8pm just to dream (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog, FarWestGirl

        when I was a young teen, and I also went to bed early just to listen to the radio station from Chicago, Led Zep, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkle in the dark in the late 60s, but I did dream after

        "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

        by merrywidow on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:58:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have to sleep in to extend my dream time (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marina, HoundDog, FarWestGirl

          Like my brain is squeezing it in at the very last minute and always runs out of time partway through.  Of course, it only works if I can actually get back to sleep. Sometimes I get halfway there and am only just seeing and hearing the shadows of a dream as if from a distance but am not fully transported.

          It doesn't help that I'll wake up at the crack of dawn unless I stay up to midnight. Before I started going to school and had to get out of bed, my parents had to make a rule that I couldn't get out of bed before 6am.  

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Tue May 20, 2014 at 06:38:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Question to those who have active dream life: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is your frequency of dreams or the ability to remember them affected by your creative work?

    When I was drawing like 3 hours a day 3 times a week or more or other forms of art, my dreaming seemed to diminish.

    Also since I've been taking antidepressants my dream life has pretty much stopped.

    Usually I would have vivid dreams that I would remember well the next day: serial dreams, recurring dreams, spy dreams, etc.

    Thanks for your input.

  •  Have I? (0+ / 0-)

    Kind of?

    Whenever I realize what I'm experiencing is a dream, I wake up, so the "lucid"" part never lasts beyond the recognition of lucidness.  I have no idea if that counts.

    "You are not stupid. You are important. You mean something, and you're going to go out there and you're going to do some wonderful things." Justin Carmical

    by Anjana on Tue May 20, 2014 at 10:00:48 PM PDT

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