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Introduction
& Prolog
Part 1.
Metabolic Metaphysics
Part 2.
Star Larvae
Part 3.
Space Brains
Addenda
Epilog

The Star Larvae Hypothesis
Nature's Plan for Humankind
Part 3. Space Brains

Lucid Dreams, the Great Awakening

Dreaming compensates for sleep's brain-impoverishing paralysis. Dreaming with intent extends conscious will into the unconscious.



The habit of sleeping should impoverish brains, because it paralyzes bodies, or it at least minimizes movement and so minimizes sensorimotor feedback.

But sleep itself might contain the antidote to any trend toward impoverishment that its motionlessness imposes. In The Infant Mind Richard Restak observes,

"Six months into the pregnancy, eye movements and breathing are linked: rapid eye movements, combined with irregular, jagged breathing. This pattern will persist throughout childhood; during periods of eye movements the breathing becomes irregular and jerky. Dreams disturb the sleep, disturb the breathing . . . this is our explanation in children and adults. But what can we say of the fetus? Does it dream as well? [. . . .] Indeed, what could the fetus be dreaming of? No neuroscientist, unaided by input from some Higher Authority, could ever begin to answer that question."

Higher authorities aside, the observation suggests that fetal sleep involves more than just dozing.

REM sleep—the stage named after the rapid eye movements that accompany dreaming—challenges conventional psychodynamic explanations of dreaming when it occurs in fetuses. The prevailing psychodynamic theories describe dreams as exercises in conflict resolution, wish fulfillment, or the "sifting through" of mental residues. Such psychological processing in the mind of a fetus might have little or no significance, if it can be imagined to occur at all. Another theory explains REM sleep in fetuses without relying on psychodynamics. This theory proposes that dreaming is not concerned primarily with psychological processes, but with neurophysiological ones. In this model dreams have the job of maintaining neural networks, particularly sensorimotor feedback loops, that are not adequately exercised during waking hours.

Researcher J. Allan Hobson, in The Dreaming Brain, notes that during dreams the brain's visual and motor cortices are as active as they are during waking, although input from the eyes and output to the muscles are blocked. The high levels of neural activity, "are just what one would want if one function of REM sleep were actively to maintain basic circuits of the brain," Hobson explains. "Since our daytime repertoires are not always comprehensive in calling forth a complete set of neural actions, these circuits might otherwise suffer through disuse." Research conducted in 2011 substantiates this insight. Using brain-imaging technology, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, the Charité hospital in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig determined that actions performed in dreams activate the same brain circuits that are active when those actions are performed awake. The dreaming brain simulates inputs and outputs to exercise sensorimotor feedback loops—hence the sensory vividness of the dream world and its ability to call forth tireless, though virtual, activity.

Lucid dreaming in the news

If dreaming has the potential to mitigate the neurological impoverishments of sleep, then native extraterrestrials should have little to worry about in the way of sleep-induced neurological impoverishment.

Their juvenilized brains will be adept at dreaming. A typical three-month-old infant spends about 40 percent of its sleeping time in the REM state, in contrast to an adult brain, which spends only about 20 percent of its sleep time in REM. Neurological neoteny in weightlessness promises to deliver to adult extraterrestrials the infantile percentage. But the prospect of spending a large fraction of one’s life in REM sleep might not be one that many prospective space settlers would find inviting, given, among other things, the unsettling tumult of dream experience.

But the disorienting buffeting that dreams mete out can be circumvented. Lucidity is available to tame the bully. Becoming lucid—aware—during dreams and taking command of dream events is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. Lucid dreams, in which the dreamer knows that he/she is dreaming, would seem to merge modes of experience that weightless brain enrichment is likely to encourage.

Sleep researcher Stephen LaBerge, working at Stanford University, not only has documented the occurrence of lucid dreaming, but also developed training methods that help sleepers become lucid in their dreams. The adept lucid dreamer, exercising intent, can manufacture experiences to order. LaBerge’s training method involves equipping the trainee with goggles that signal him or her with a colored light when the trainee is in the REM phase of sleep, as determined by an EEG monitor. Using agreed-upon eye movements as a code, the dreamer can signal back to the outside world about events that occur in dreams. The EEG monitoring equipment verifies that the subject remains asleep during the communication.

Research conducted in 2012 at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry demonstrated that the brain areas particularly active during lucid dreaming are those most associated with awareness of self. Michael Czisch, head of a research group involved in the study, summarizes the findings,

"The general basic activity of the brain is similar in a normal dream and in a lucid dream. In a lucid state, however, the activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex increases markedly within seconds. The involved areas of the cerebral cortex are the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to which commonly the function of self-assessment is attributed, and the frontopolar regions, which are responsible for evaluating our own thoughts and feelings. The precuneus is also especially active, a part of the brain that has long been linked with self-perception."

More recent research, at the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests that proficient lucid dreamers enjoy heightened mental acuity during wakefulness. The research report, called Spontaneous Lucid Dreaming and Waking Insight, was published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Dreaming Vol 24(2), Jun 2014, 152-159. doi: 10.1037/a0036908.

LaBerge offers an attractive pitch: "Lucid dreamers are often overjoyed to discover that they can seemingly do anything they wish. They have, for instance, but to declare the law of gravity repealed, and they float. They can visit the Himalayas and climb to the highest peak without ropes or guides; they can even explore the solar system without a space suit."

Propitiously, perhaps, it turns out that avid video gamers develop a knack for lucid dreaming. Researcher Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, reports, "If you're spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it's practice. Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams." Gackenbach's research on lucid dreaming proficiency in video gamers is summarized HERE. If today's video games facilitate lucid dreaming,then full-blown virtual realities would have to do much more. The distinction between technological and neurological "realities" might dwindle to insignificance, given sufficiently advanced technology and sufficiently enriched neurology.

NEXT > Omnipresent Virtualities



 

The Star Larvae Hypothesis:

Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.

Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which

 

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