What is your impossible possible dream

Neuroscience : The art of lucid dream

When Richard Feynman, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics, was a little boy, his father puzzled him: “Imagine Martians coming to visit us. You never sleep and you want to know how it feels to sleep. How do you explain it to them? "

Little Richard didn't know what to say, of course. Nor was the question answered by his father claiming that all intellectual activity came to a standstill in sleep; that was what people thought in the 1930s. But Feynman was an unusually critical mind from a young age, and when he wanted to solve a problem he was bothered. Over a decade later, he unexpectedly got closer to the secret in a boring university seminar. The professor's lecture had turned into a monotonous murmur. Feynman had dozed off and yet could see what was going on inside him.

For the next four weeks he made a habit of lying down in the afternoons and carefully watching the transition to sleep. And all of a sudden he realized in a dream that he was dreaming. He saw himself on the roof of a railroad car leading into a tunnel. He felt his fear. However, he also knew that all he had to do was crouch. He saw the car sway.

"I could direct my dream!"

Now he was in the car. Through a large pane of glass he saw three attractive girls in bathing suits. He walked past them into the next car. But why should he miss the delightful sight? “That's when I discovered that I could turn around. I was able to direct my dream! ”He returned to the car with the window with a view. "I was excited, said sentences like, 'Wow, it works!' And woke up."

Almost half of all people say in surveys that they have had a similar experience at least once in their life: they noticed in a dream that they were dreaming. For a long time Richard Feynman was probably the only world-class scientist who believed in the existence of such lucid dreams. For other scholars, such stories were nothing but fantasy. That it could be possible to be in the dream with full consciousness and even to direct it contradicted everything that one believed to know about sleep. How, the skeptics asked, should one ever be able to tell whether lucid dreams are more than just dizziness or imagination?

In 1975 two English psychologists, Keith Hearne and Alan Worsley, came up with the idea that a lucid dreamer should be able to send a message from sleep: Perhaps he could do the quick eye movements during the particularly dreamy Rem phase of sleep willingly steer. That was a bold idea, because the sleeper would not only have to move his muscles deliberately, but he would have to remember the deal while he slept.

Communication from sleep

Worsley himself offered himself as a test subject. The two researchers agreed that as soon as he became aware of a dream, Worsley should look eight times to the left and eight times to the right behind his closed lids. A measuring device recorded the muscle movements. On the morning of April 12th, the wired Worsley reported a lucid dream. Hearne checked the recordings on the measuring device: Clearly Worsely had moved his eyes eight times in both directions at the time in question! It was the first time a person had used it to communicate from sleep. In later experiments, it was found that lucid dreamers can even hold their breath to signal their condition.

Researchers can now measure actions that a lucid dreamer can only imagine. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich recently asked test subjects with lucid dream experience to dream up a tennis ball, pick it up and squeeze it. Meanwhile, a magnetic resonance tomograph recorded the brain's activity. And although the whole scene only took place in dream reality, even though the sleepers' hands did not move, a pattern of activity was evident in their heads, as if the test subjects were actually tensing their muscles and squeezing them hard with their fingers.

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