Research Topic

“Is this a Dream?” – Evolutionary, Neurobiological and Psychopathological Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming

About this Research Topic

Dreaming is characterized by perceptual, emotional and cognitive experiences that occur during sleep, which are typically associated with absence of rational judgment over their bizarre content. Lucid dreaming (LD), however, is a specific state of consciousness in which the dreamer gains awareness of being in ...

Dreaming is characterized by perceptual, emotional and cognitive experiences that occur during sleep, which are typically associated with absence of rational judgment over their bizarre content. Lucid dreaming (LD), however, is a specific state of consciousness in which the dreamer gains awareness of being in a dream, and may control the oneiric content. Data from a large meta-analysis demonstrates that 55% of pooled sample claimed to have experienced LD at least once in their lifetime. However, LD is frequently associated with psychiatric disorders, psychopathological traits and sleep disorders including parasomnias, such as sleep paralysis. On the other hand, navigating the oneiric content of LD can also be induced volitionally through mental imagery techniques in Tibetan Buddhist practices. These observations raise the following questions. What the role of LD for adaptation might be and whether this role differs between psychopathological and normal conditions?

Neurophysiological studies on LD consist of instructing subjects to convey an objective signal through voluntary ocular movements whenever they achieve a LD. This could be possible because eye muscles are not in atonia in rapid eye movement sleep (REMS), the sleep stage mostly associated with both dreaming and LD.

Despite the striking emotional salience of LD, and its ubiquity in different cultures, many other questions remain open. For instance, the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie lucidity during dreams are not fully understood. Current research is also directed at trying to best study it, and to develop techniques to induce LD in non-frequent lucid dreamers. In addition, paradoxical aspects of LD are related to its phenomenology, since some authors claim that LD is a dissociated state, during which brain structures involved in executive functions might be activated. But if so, whether and how LD induction might affect the natural functions of REMS remains unclear. Therefore, conceptual, anthropological and methodological aspects of LD need to be better delineated in order to allow a clear discussion in the field of dreaming and consciousness.

Besides theoretical accounts, LD has practical importance for those who suffer from recurrent nightmares (which are common in post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression), since becoming lucid during nightmare may decrease the nightmare distress and even nightmare frequency. Another possible clinical application of LD would be for patients who present a motor deficit, because imagining movements may actually influence motor skills during the waking state. Finally, since dreaming is a good model to understand psychosis, LD research may also contribute to investigate the diseases that impair consciousness. Thus, LD research could shed light on human consciousness, in its physiological, pathological and altered states.

For this Frontiers Research Topic, we are organizing a forum to discuss the current trends in LD research. We welcome empirical contributions and evidence based and theory papers from both experts and young scientists in the field. Submissions of related original research manuscripts, case reports, perspectives, reviews, and opinions are highly appreciated. We hope that building this Research Topic will foster future collaborative research and enhance our understanding of LD and human consciousness.

[Image: Um sonho vangoghiano by Carolina Soeiro]


Keywords: Lucid Dreaming, Dreams, Consciousness, Self-Consciousness, REM Sleep


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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30 November 2019 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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