A few people in the world are able to "wake up" in their dreams, retaining their lucidity and even exploring the dream world. According to a new study, all these people may have one thing in common - a neurological ability which also improves their self-reflection skills.
Lucid dreaming is any dream in which one is aware that he or she is dreaming. If you do a quick search on the internet, you'll find a ton of advice regarding how to start lucid dreaming, how to experiment with it, and what you can learn. You'll also find a lot of skepticism - according to Dr. Patrick McNamara of Boston University, there is no scientific way to know if someone was lucid dreaming but to ask him. Physiologically, brain activity during REM sleep is similar to wakefulness, so you can never really know for sure if someone is lucid dreaming or not. But a group of scientists from Germany do believe in it, and they believe they've found what all lucid dreamers have in common.
"Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams," said Elisa Filevich, a research at the Centre for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, who was one of the leaders of the research, in a press release.
They conducted brain scans on several people who reportedly lucid dream often. They found that the area of the brain responsible for self reflection (among others) is significantly larger among lucid dreamers. The anterior prefrontal cortex is also responsible for executive filtering - deciding which actions and thoughts are relevant and which are irrelevant.
"Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams," said Filevich in the release.
Researchers are now interested to see if this skill can actually be learned. As I described above, the internet is flooded with ways through which you can learn lucid dreaming, but there is little scientific evidence to actually back this up.
The guys at ASAP Science published a nice little video detailing the science of lucid dreaming: