There has been a lot of research done to prove lucid dreaming IS real and can be learned.This research however, can be confusing so we’ve summarised it and made a lucid dreaming research timeline!
Before The 1970s
The mid to late 1970s were the first time that lucid dreaming began to be researched as a recognised field of scientific study, but knowledge and ideas about lucid dreams had been in existence long before this. The problem, though, was a lack of scientific proof which led my scientists to doubt the phenomenon entirely.
Mid to Late 1970s: Keith Hearn and Stephen LaBerge
Formal research into lucid dreaming can be dated back to 1975, when the first study on lucid dreaming brought the subject to the forefront of people’s minds. The study was conducted by British parapsychologist Keith Hearn, who recorded the predetermined eye movements of his test subject, Alan Worsley. Hearn’s research showed that lucid dreams are real dreams and take place in the stage of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement).
Keith Hearn’s research was later verified by American psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge, who was able to confirm that lucid dreamers could signal to researchers using their eye movements, whilst in the midst of a lucid dream.
This technique has proved invaluable to those researching lucid dreaming, as it has meant that neuroscientific studies have been able to confirm that test subjects were not faking their dreams whilst being studied in a laboratory setting.
Another important finding attributed to Stephen LaBerge relates to the induction of lucid dreaming. LaBerge used a device called a DreamLight to stimulate lucid dreaming in his test subjects.
The device was later replaced by the NovaDreamer, which was designed by a lucid dreamer called Craig Webb, who worked at the Lucidity Institute and participated in several studies into lucid dreaming at Stanford. The devices involve an eye mask, which holds LEDs which are positioned over the eyeballs of the lucid dreamer. When the person begins REM sleep (this can be detected through rapid eye movements) the mask’s LED will flash.
Currently, a new model of the NovaDreamer is in development. It is expected that those hoping to experience lucid dreaming will be able to purchase this from the Lucidity Institute website in the near future.
2009: The Physiology of Lucid Dreaming
A 2009 study undertaken by Ursula Voss, Romain Holzmann, Inka Tuin and J. Allan Hobson sought to analyse the physiological correlations of lucid dreaming, to examine any alterations in brain physiology which might account for the phenomenon. It took place within the sleep laboratory of Frankfurt University.
One of the key surprises of this study was the problems test subjects experienced when attempting lucid dreams in a laboratory setting. In fact, from an initial group of 20 test subjects, all of whom reported experiencing lucid dreams at least twice a week, only three were able to replicate this in a sleep laboratory. The difficulty therefore of studying lucid dreaming in this setting goes someway to explaining why the phenomenon has been a controversial field of study in recent decades.
Three of the six participants in this study did experience lucid dreaming in the laboratory setting, however. All three experienced the lucid dreams spontaneously, and signalled that they were in a lucid dream using a pattern of eye movements which they’d been taught earlier. From these three subjects, researchers were able to find out some interesting facts about how the brain functions in a period of lucid dreaming.
This study found that when a test subject was fully awake and alert, or in the middle of a lucid dreaming, their coherence levels were very similar. This interesting finding explains how, when we experience lucid dreaming, we are fully in control of our dreams, just as we would be fully in control of our actions when we’re awake.
The researchers noted that the test subjects’ coherence levels were largest in the frontolateral and frontal areas of the brain. The final hypothesis reached remains speculative, but the researchers found that dream lucidity may arise because of wake-like frontal lobe activation, which is similar to REM sleep activity.
2012: The INDUCTION of Lucid Dreaming
A 2012 study into lucid dreaming undertaken by researchers Tadas Stumbrys, Daniel Erlacher, Melanie Schadlich and Michael Schredl used a series of induction techniques such as cognitive methods, external stimulation and drugs to stimulate lucid dreaming in a collection of test subjects, in order to analyse the effectiveness of induction techniques with regard to lucid dreaming.
The researchers could not verify that any lucid induction techniques induced lucid dreams reliably and consistently, (despite thousands of people saying they have had them work) but found that a few looked promising and warranted further investigation.
More Recent Lucid Dreaming Research Findings
More recently, studies into lucid dreaming have been undertaken by scientists at the Max Plank Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, the Charite hospital Berlin and the Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.
These studies found that lucid dreaming is indeed authentic, and that the dream content can be measured through brain activity when the subjects are dreaming.
The Max Plank Institute’s research has found, importantly, that fMRI and EEG devices can be used to explore brain activity when a subject is experiencing a lucid dream. This research showed that there is a link between the cerebral cortex (which is responsible for self-awareness and self-reflection) and lucid dreaming – because the cerebral cortex becomes suddenly active while a subject is experiencing a lucid dream.
This interesting finding backs up what we already know about the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, and goes some way to explaining the accounts of lucid dreams by those who experience them on a regular basis.
EEGs have also been used to demonstrate that lucid dreamers are indeed in control of their actions, despite being unconscious. In one study lucid dreamers were asked to signal with their eyes during their lucid dreams.
They did so, despite the fact that the EEGs confirmed that they were in the midst of REM sleep at the time. (EEGs have also been used in some recent lucid dreaming tech like the LucidCatcher to directly induce lucid dreams!)
Lucid Dreaming Research: Our Conclusion
Lucid dreaming research has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and has been a recognised field of scientific study ever since the late 1970s.
Whilst it may be problematic to study such a phenomenon in a laboratory setting, these studies have found that it is possible to analyse the experiences of lucid dreamers, and that it can indeed form the foundations of new information about the way our brains work.
Research into lucid dreaming continues at universities and research centres across the globe, so it remains to be seen what interesting facts scientists might discover in the future. If there’s one thing we do know, it’s that there’s a lot we don’t yet know about the human brain. There’s a bright future for lucid dreaming!
So, scientists and lucid dreamers of the future have much to learn, and much to discover, in the field of lucid dreaming. Watch this space, dreamers, we know some exciting findings are just around the corner!
Want to try it for yourself?