Hijack your own dreams to improve your skills

December 23, 2011 | Source: New Scientist

(Credit: stock image)

(Requires registration) People can use lucid dreaming (ability to “wake up” while still in a dream) to improve decision-making and physical skills, even to help regain mobility following a stroke, recent studies suggest.

Potential benefits of lucid dreaming include better mental health, self-confidence, satisfaction with life, and greater ability to cope with traumatic events, the studies show. Lucid dreamers also perform better in a gambling task (the Iowa Gambling Task) designed to test the functioning of the brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is thought to be involved in emotional decision-making and social interactions.

Research has already shown that people who practice tasks in their lucid dreams are better at performing them the following day; and the neural networks involved in imagined and real movement are very similar, so training these brain areas through mental practice could make the real movement easier for stroke victims.

In the film Inception, characters can achieve an hour’s worth of activity in a dream that actually lasts 5 minutes, but research suggests that the reverse is true when dreaming.

How to get lucid: question reality during the day; plan your dream before you sleep; write down your dreams; focus on a high-concentration task during the day; and wake up early, then go back to sleep and slip into REM sleep.

Ref.: Michelle Neider et al., Lucid dreaming and ventromedial versus dorsolateral prefrontal task performance, Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 20, Issue 2, June 2011, Pages 234-244, DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.08.001