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Fantastic, amazing and magical beyond belief. This is how people who experience them talk about them. What is it about? About lucid dreams. In other words, those during which the dreamer realizes that he is dreaming. But the most fascinating thing about them is how realistic they look.

The term lucid dream was first used in an article written by Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden in 1913. Van Eeden studied his dreams almost twenty years before he used the term in an attempt to describe dreams of unusual mental clarity. Lucid dreaming as a concept has long been a subject of human interest, dating back hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Probably the first known reference to lucid dreaming is Aristotle's treatise On Dreams from 350 BC.

Lucid dreaming is a core element of Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga, as is the ancient Hindu practice of yogic sleep. Both practices promote dream control as a path to enlightenment. In yoga related to dreaming, a lucid dreamer can be encouraged, for example, to change the size of objects that appear in a dream or to remove fear by touching fire.

During a lucid dream, a person has control over the dream and feels like they are in the real world, while being able to do things they normally can't do. The realism of feelings is close to real life, and therefore dreaming with the knowledge that we know it is a dream is usually very pleasant.

Lucid dreams were the subject of much speculation and debate until 1978, when sleep studies began to prove their existence. Sleep researcher Keith Hearne realized that like other types of dreams, lucid dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep. Although most body muscles are paralyzed during REM sleep, the eye muscles are not.


Later studies showed that lucid dreaming often occurs during times of particularly high arousal or changes in brain wave activity in the outer layer of the brain. Dream recognition can occur specifically in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, where working memory, planning, and abstract reasoning are processed.

Great excitement in the the brain usually occurs at the time of transition from one sleep stage to another, for example from NREM sleep to REM sleep or from REM sleep to wakefulness. Changes in sleep and wakefulness may be indicated by a decrease or increase in heart rate and breathing.


Gamma wave activity in the brain appears to be a powerful trigger for lucid dreaming. In one study, 27 people who had never experienced lucid dreaming received a weak electrical shock to the frontal lobe of the brain during REM sleep. Gamma wave frequencies stimulated lucid dreaming in 77% of volunteers, while alpha, beta, delta and theta brain wave frequencies did not produce this effect. Control volunteers received no electrical shock during the study, and none reported experiencing even a hint of lucid dreaming.

Gamma waves can trigger lucid dreaming most likely because of their association with consciousness and memory in the conscious state. This type of brain wave is not normally seen during REM sleep, with gamma waves being the fastest of the five brain waves visible in human brain scans. Gamma waves are notable for their tight and consistent pattern on the EEG. As a rule, they are associated with high-level information processing, insight and relaxation.

Studies on Zen Buddhist monks have shown that gamma waves increase and synchronize during meditation, especially in monks who practice meditation for a long time. Gamma waves therefore appear to alter perception and consciousness and can be controlled with long-term training.

Lucid brain activation

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