Monday, August 20, 2012

The Brain of a Lucid Dreamer

Via Reality Sandwich:

Studies, using magnetic resonance tomography (MRT), show that the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions, and the precuneus are activated when the lucid dreamer gains awareness within the dream. These regions are associated with self-reflective functions, such as self-assessment, perception, and the evaluation of our thoughts and feelings. 

In the lucid state, "the activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex increases markedly within seconds." All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. The involved areas of the cerebral cortex are the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to which commonly the function of self-assessment is attributed, and the frontopolar regions, which are responsible for evaluating our own thoughts and feelings. The precuneus is also especially active, a part of the brain that has long been linked with self-perception. (Source-Michael Czisch, head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry)

According to Holzinger, LaBerge, & Levitan, (2006), it is shown that there are higher amounts of beta-1 frequency band (13–19 Hz) experienced by lucid dreamers, hence there is an increased amount of activity in the parietal lobes making lucid dreaming a conscious process.

Neuroscientist J. Allan Hobson has hypothesized what might be occurring in the brain while lucid. The first step to lucid dreaming is recognizing one is dreaming. This recognition might occur in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is one of the few areas deactivated during REM sleep and where working memory occurs. Once this area is activated and the recognition of dreaming occurs, the dreamer must be cautious to let the dream continue but be conscious enough to remember that it is a dream. While maintaining this balance, the amygdala and parahippocampal cortex might be less intensely activated.To continue the intensity of the dream hallucinations, it is expected the pons and the parieto-occipital junction stay active (Source).

DL-PFC serves as the highest cortical area responsible for motor planning, organization, and regulation. It plays an important role in the integration of sensory and mnemonic information and the regulation of intellectual function and action. It is also involved in working memory. 

Brodmann area 10 is the frontopolar part of the frontal cortex in the human brain. Koechlin & Hyafil have proposed that processing of 'cognitive branching' is the core function of the frontopolar cortex. Cognitive branching enables a previously running task to be maintained in a pending state for subsequent retrieval and execution upon completion of the ongoing one.

File:Gray727 precuneus.png
The precuneus is linked to the involvement in self-consciousness, such as reflective self-awareness, that involve rating ones own personality traits compared to those judged of other people. The precuneus is involved in memory tasks, such as the recall of episodic memories and source memory (in which the "source" circumstances of a memory are recalled). It has been suggested that together with the posterior cingulate, that the precuneus is "pivotal for conscious information processing. In addition, it is one of the areas of the brain most deactivated during slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep.

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