Neuroscientists have found that self-reflective people — those who tend to notice their own thoughts — are more likely to have lucid dreams.
Lucid dreams are those in which the dreamer has some control over what happens in the dream.
The level of control can vary from a simple awareness of being in a dream up to having some control over what happens.
Most people have had lucid dreams at some point in their lives, but studies generally find that they are not that frequent.
Many people find, though, that lucid dreams are extremely pleasant, given that they provide complete freedom in a hyperreal world.
The new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that people who have lucid dreams tend to have a larger anterior prefrontal cortex (in red below) — the area which is vital for self-reflection (Filevich et al., 2015).
Dr Elisa Filevich, who led the study, said:
“Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams.”
To reach these conclusions researchers asked people about whether, and how often, they had lucid dreams.
Then, while in a brain scanner, they were given a series of tests which involved metacognition, which involves reflecting on your own thinking.
For example, if you suddenly notice that you are worried about work tomorrow and so you need to do something to take your mind of it; that is metacognition.
The study’s authors conclude:
“Our results reveal shared neural systems between lucid dreaming and metacognitive function, in particular in the domain of thought monitoring.
This finding contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms enabling higher-order consciousness in dreams.”
The researchers say that the next step is to see if metacognitive skills — a kind of heightened self-awareness — can be trained.
They hope to train people in how to lucid dream and then see if their metacognitive skills also improve.
Read on: How To Lucid Dream (scroll to the bottom)
Image credit: i k o & MPI for Human Development