|MadSci Network: Neuroscience|
Lucid dreaming, the experience of dreaming and simultaneously being aware that one is dreaming is a technique that some believe is easily learned and that may provide effective and therapeutic relief to a number of conditions, including chronic nightmares. Numerous reports of lucid dreams have been recorded through the centuries by philosophers, poets and occultists. However these, as well as the investigations carried out by serious researchers, were completely ignored by scientists because they were based on personal experiences. It was not until the late '50s that the first effective techniques for inducing lucid dreaming were developed in Germany. Shortly thereafter, the first investigations were begun - this is always an important step as up to this point most of the knowledge was obtained from subjective reports (which are not the most rigorous and reliable form of assessing information). However, one thing to keep in mind is that there appears to be some relationship, at least at the psychophysiological level, between dreaming and hallucinations. One study (Fisher, 1991) demonstrated that intense visual hallucinations began shortly after injection of drug (atropine) and persisted for more than one week. They were present only when the eyes were closed and were associated with heightened dreaming and disturbed sleep. Others have also examined lucid dreaming compared to other types of dreaming. Spafadora & Hunt, (1990) demonstrated that lucid dreamers could be distinguished from nightmare sufferers on the basis of high imaginativeness, proclivity to waking mystical experience, spatial/analytic skills, and physical balance. It appears that the intensification of dreaming is expressed positively or negatively, depending on variations in these cognitive dimensions. Consider most forms of "new age" therapies - many might be ridiculed as they are perceived to have little scientific merit behind them. However, this is not to say they are without merit - one good example of this is Chinese herbal remedies. For a great period of time, herbal medicine was not considered a valid form of medical treatment by western-trained physicians. However, herbal therapies have come into greater respect recently as there have been independent studies supporting the value of the treatments. Yet there are still many bogus treatments out there. While certainly not a thorough review of what is out there, hopefully this is enough to get you started. Cheers, Josh Rodefer, Ph.D. Harvard Medical School References - Scientific Papers: Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1569-75 Zadra AL, Pihl RO Lucid dreaming as a treatment for recurrent nightmares. Psychother Psychosom 1997;66(1):50-5 Lequerica A. Lucid dreaming and the mind-body relationship: a model for the cognitive and physiological variations in rapid eye movement sleep. Percept Mot Skills 1996 Aug;83(1):331-6 Prescott JA, Pettigrew CG Lucid dreaming and control in waking life. Percept Mot Skills 1995 Oct;81(2):658 Abramovitch H The nightmare of returning home: a case of acute onset nightmare disorder treated by lucid dreaming. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci 1995;32(2):140-5 Fisher CM. Visual hallucinations on eye closure associated with atropine toxicity. A neurological analysis and comparison with other visual hallucinations. Can J Neurol Sci 1991 Feb;18(1):18-27 Spadafora A, Hunt HT The multiplicity of dreams: cognitive-affective correlates of lucid, archetypal, and nightmare dreaming. Percept Mot Skills 1990 Oct;71(2):627-44 Overview of the Development of Lucid Dream Research in Germany http://www.enabling.org/ia/gestalt/gerhards/thol_lucid1.html
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