Neurology & Dreams

Our brains keep working on problems while we sleep, shows research on dreaming rats by Matthew A. Wilson, PhD (neuroscience, MIT). Recording directly into the rat’s hippocampus and visual cortex, he found that their dreaming brains process information and start making new connections.

 Dreaming and waking brains work pretty similar. If for example you see a face in a dream, it fires up the facial recognition parts of your brain.
A team of Swiss, Italian and US researchers could predict if a test subject was dreaming of people, just by looking at their EEG scan.
For a summary of this clever research study see this article in Cordis EU Research Results.

Research Papers

Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during REM sleep

Dreams take us to a different reality, a hallucinatory world that feels as real as any waking experience. These often-bizarre episodes are emblematic of human sleep but have yet to be adequately explained. Retrospective dream reports are subject to distortion and forgetting, presenting a fundamental challenge for neuroscientific studies of dreaming. Here we show that individuals who are asleep and in the midst of a lucid dream (aware of the fact that they are currently dreaming) can perceive questions from an experimenter and provide answers using electrophysiological signals. We implemented our procedures for two-way communication during polysomnographically verified rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep in 36 individuals. Some had minimal prior experience with lucid dreaming, others were frequent lucid dreamers, and one was a patient with narcolepsy who had frequent lucid dreams. During REM sleep, these individuals exhibited various capabilities, including performing veridical perceptual analysis of novel information, maintaining information in working memory, computing simple answers, and expressing volitional replies. Their responses included distinctive eye movements and selective facial muscle contractions, constituting correctly answered questions on 29 occasions across 6 of the individuals tested. These repeated observations of interactive dreaming, documented by four independent laboratory groups, demonstrate that phenomenological and cognitive characteristics of dreaming can be interrogated in real time. This relatively unexplored communication channel can enable a variety of practical applications and a new strategy for the empirical exploration of dreams.

Practicing a Motor Task in a Lucid Dream Enhances Subsequent Performance

Nocturnal dreams can be considered as a kind of simulation of the real world on a higher cognitive level. Within lucid dreams, the dreamer is able to control the ongoing dream content and is free to do what he or she wants. In this pilot study, the possibility of practicing a simple motor task in a lucid dream was studied. Forty participants were assigned to a lucid dream practice group, a physical practice group and a control group. The motor task was to toss 10-cent coins into a cup and hit as many as possible out of 20 tosses. Waking performance was measured in the evening and on the next morning by the participants at home. The 20 volunteers in the lucid dream practice group attempted to carry out the motor task in a lucid dream on a single night. Seven participants succeeded in having a lucid dream and practiced the experimental task. This group of seven showed a significant improvement in performance (from 3.7 to 5.3); the other 13 subjects showed no improvement (from 3.4 to 2.9). Comparing all four groups, the physical practice group demonstrated the highest enhancement in performance followed by the successful lucid dream practice group. Both groups had statistically significant higher improvements in contrast to the nondreaming group and the control group. Even though the experimental design is not able to explain if specific effects (motor learning) or unspecific effects (motivation) caused the improvement, the results of this study showed that rehearsing in a lucid dream enhances subsequent performance in wakefulness. To clarify the factors which increased performance after lucid dream practice and to control for confounding factors, it is suggested that sleep laboratory studies should be conducted in the future. The possibilities of lucid dream practice for professional sports will be discussed.

Thesis 1: Sensory-motor skills which have already been mastered in their rough outlines can be refined by using lucid dreaming.

Thesis 2: New sensory-motor skills can be learned using lucid dreaming.

Thesis 3: Sensory-motor actions can be perfected by test runs carried out in a lucid dream state.

Thesis 4: The flexibility of an athlete’s reactions can be substantially improved by varying body movements in lucid dreams.

Thesis 5: Lucid dreaming can also be used for practicing mental movements which make sensory-motor learning easier.

Thesis 6: Lucid dreaming can be used for improving the organization of the phenomenal field with respect to the execution of sports movements.

Thesis 7: By changing the personality structure, lucid dreaming can lead to improved performance and a higher level of creativity in sports.

Consciousness and abilities of dream characters observed during lucid dreaming Lucid dreamers were directed to set different tasks to dream characters they met while lucid dreaming. Dream characters were asked to draw or write, to name unknown words, to find rhyme words, to make verses, and to solve arithmetic problems. Part of the dream characters actually agreed to perform the tasks and were successful, although the arithmetic accomplishments were poor. This tests the assumption that dream characters have their own consciousness. Regardless, dream characters should be handled as if they were rational beings.

Dreaming and waking brains work pretty similarly. If for example, you see a face in a dream, it fires up the facial recognition parts of your brain.
A team of Swiss, Italian and US researchers could predict if a test subject was dreaming of people, just by looking at their EEG scan.
For a summary of this clever research study see this article in Cordis EU Research Results.

Dreaming, mind wandering, spotanious inspration: these are all moments of activity in what’s called our brain’s default mode network. We connect old information with new, and are open to unexpected ideas. Research study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

 Our eye movements reveal our emotions during sleep, shows research from the French Sorbonne University.

The Committee of Sleep: A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving (Dreaming, 1993). In this study, college students were asked to sleep a week on a personal problem. Even after the first try, half of them managed to dream about the issue, and a third found a solution.

 Sleep inspires insight and our mind solves problems while we sleep, even if it’s a math problem. (University of Münster, Germany).

Good morning creativity: task reactivation during sleep enhances beneficial effect of sleep on creative performance. Scent can help you wake up with creative ideas. (Radboud University, The Netherlands).

More Sources

Aspy, Denholm J. “Findings from the International Lucid Dream Induction Study.” Frontiers, School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, 1 July 2020,

Brylowski, A. (1990). Nightmares in crisis: Clinical applications of lucid dreaming techniques. Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottawa, 15(2), 79–84.

Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1995) ‘“Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”: A Commentary’, in Person, E.S. Fonagy, P. &Figueira, S.A. (eds) On Freud’s “Creative Writers and Day-dreaming”, New Haven and London, Yale University Press. 107-121.

Dumpert, Jennifer. Liminal Dreaming. North Atlantic Books, 2019.

Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2010). “Practicing a motor task in a lucid dream enhances subsequent performance: A pilot study.” The Sport Psychologist, 24(2), 157–167 doi:10.1123/tsp.24.2.157

Erlacher, Daniel, et al. “Time for Actions in Lucid Dreams: Effects of Task Modality, Length, and Complexity.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 4, 2014, 

Gott, Jarrod, et al. “Virtual Reality Training of Lucid Dreaming –” ResearchGate, Royalsocietypublishing, 13 July 2020

Johnson, Clare R. Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: a Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness. Woodbury: Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd., 2017. 

Jung, C. G. The Undiscovered Self. Routledge, 2014.

Jung, C. G., et al. “Approaching the Unconscious.” Man and His Symbols, Stellar Classics, Bowdon, Cheshire, England, 2013.

Konkoly, K., & Burke, C. T. (2019). Can learning to lucid dream promote personal growth? Dreaming, 29(2), 113–126.

LaBerge, S & H. Rheingold, (1990). Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-37410-X 

Linklater, Richard, ed. “Waking Life.” IMDb., March 7, 2002. 

Nir, Y. and Tononi, G., 2010. Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(2), pp.88-100.

Sackwild, L., and T. Stumbrys. “The Healing and Transformative Potential of Lucid Dreaming for Treating Clinical Depression”. 2021. International Journal of Dream Research, vol. 14, no. 2, Nov. 2021, pp. 296-08, doi:10.11588/ijodr.2021.2.81533.

Schädlich, M., “Motor learning in lucid dreams – quantitative and qualitative investigations.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Heidelberg, Germany, 2017.

Shrader, Astin. “Träuma: A Visual Study in Dream Therapy.” Savannah College of Art & Design, 2019.

Soffer-Dudek, N. (2020). Are Lucid Dreams Good for Us? Are We Asking the Right Question? A Call for Caution in Lucid Dream Research. Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Staunton, H., 2001. The Function of Dreaming. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 12(4).

Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D. and Schredl, M., 2015. Effectiveness of motor practice in lucid dreams: a comparison with physical and mental practice. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(1), pp.27-34.

Stumbrys, Tadas, Daniel Erlacher, Melanie Schädlich, and Michael Schredl. “Induction of Lucid Dreams: A Systematic Review of Evidence.” Consciousness and Cognition