Lucid Dreaming Gives Scientists a Window into the Nature of Consciousness

By studying individuals who become aware that they are dreaming in the midst of a dream, scientists can identify the parts of the brain that are responsible for self-awareness. 

What's the Latest Development?

By looking at the brains of people who become aware that they are in the midst of a dream, so-called lucid dreamers, scientists have been able to better locate the neurological roots of consciousness. "Studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained. All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions." The study was conducted at the Max Planck Institutes of Psychiatry in Munich and for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany.

What's the Big Idea?

By comparing which parts of the brain are active during normal dreaming, when people experience images and emotions but are not self-aware, with the brain patterns of lucid dreamers, scientists can identify which brain activities are characteristic of lucid awareness. This gets to the heart of the mystery that is the human capacity of self-perception, self-reflection and consciousness development—all phenomena which we experience as fundamentally different from other observable events. Given current tools, it has proven difficult to observe the brain in its transition from unconsciousness to consciousness, but lucid dreaming is a notable exception to that trend. 

Photo credit:


LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less