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.
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.