The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain

The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain
This shows the brain regions activated more strongly during lucid dreaming than in a normal dream. Credit: MPI of Psychiatry

Studies of lucid dreamers visualize which centers of the brain become active when we become aware of ourselves.

Which areas of the help us to perceive our world in a self-reflective manner is difficult to measure. During wakefulness, we are always conscious of ourselves. In sleep, however, we are not. But there are people, known as lucid dreamers, who can become aware of dreaming during sleep. Studies employing tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained. All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. This research into lucid dreaming gives the authors of the latest study insight into the of human consciousness.

The human capacity of self-perception, self-reflection and consciousness development are among the unsolved mysteries of neuroscience. Despite modern imaging techniques, it is still impossible to fully visualise what goes on in the brain when people move to consciousness from an unconscious state. The problem lies in the fact that it is difficult to watch our brain during this transitional change. Although this process is the same, every time a person awakens from sleep, the basic activity of our brain is usually greatly reduced during . This makes it impossible to clearly delineate the specific underlying the regained self-perception and consciousness during the transition to from the global changes in brain activity that takes place at the same time.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes of Psychiatry in Munich and for Human Cognitive and in Leipzig and from Charité in Berlin have now studied people who are aware that they are dreaming while being in a dream state, and are also able to deliberately control their dreams. Those so-called lucid dreamers have access to their memories during lucid dreaming, can perform actions and are aware of themselves – although remaining unmistakably in a dream state and not waking up. As author Martin Dresler explains, "In a normal dream, we have a very basal consciousness, we experience perceptions and emotions but we are not aware that we are only dreaming. It's only in a lucid dream that the dreamer gets a meta-insight into his or her state."

By comparing the activity of the brain during one of these lucid periods with the activity measured immediately before in a normal dream, the scientists were able to identify the characteristic brain activities of lucid awareness.

"The general basic activity of the brain is similar in a normal dream and in a lucid dream," says Michael Czisch, head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. "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." The findings confirm earlier studies and have made the neural networks of a conscious mental state visible for the first time.

Explore further

Brain imaging study: A step toward true 'dream reading'

More information: Martin Dresler, PhD; Renate Wehrle, PhD; Victor I. Spoormaker, PhD; Stefan P. Koch, PhD; Florian Holsboer, MD, PhD; Axel Steiger, MD; Hellmuth Obrig, MD; Philipp G. Sämann, MD; Michael Czisch, PhD (2012) Neural Correlates of Dream Lucidity Obtained from Contrasting Lucid versus Non-Lucid REM Sleep: A Combined EEG/fMRI Case Study SLEEP 2012;35(7):1017-1020
Provided by Max Planck Society
Citation: The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain (2012, July 27) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
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Jul 27, 2012
the vast majority of brain imaging 'science' is fraudulent science, claiming to give far more explanatory power to the imaging than it deserves.

regional or sub regional activity can be considered largely meaningless . mri machines give blood activity readings, not neuronal readings. the science on the correlation between the blood activity and actual individual neuronal activation is nil. simply put, neural nets are not blood activation patterns no matter how much junk science wants to focus on the explanatory value of blood activation. decades of 'mri' brain science in the area of psychology and cognition have produced a few good pieces of knowledge and far more trashy science .

Jul 27, 2012
From Quantitative and temporal relationship between local cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation induced by somatosensory stimulation in rats,
During the 5 s stimulation, the pattern of change in the response magnitude of evoked LCBF to various frequencies reflected the integrated amplitude of field potentials.

The experiment consisted of electrical stimulation of the hind paw and two sensors in the cortex, one for blood flow and the other electric fields. As quoted above, the electric field and LCBF are related and therefore can be used as a means to identify neuronal activation from increased blood flow. They also state there is a slight delay between neural activation and increased LCBF.

I fail to see the meaninglessness. Is it not important to know what regions of the brain are activated while doing specific tasks? Similar data is used for analysis without the individual, e.g. tagged receptor fluorescence, where the group is usually as important as the one

Jul 27, 2012
I'm of the opinion its possible to train others to lucid dream, just takes a little patience, practice and a positive state of mind, I've had amazing lucid dreams that seem to offer surprisingly useful information in respect of real practical work...

Or is lucid dreaming only possible in those that have developed the capacity also with practice and persistence for self observation and derivatives of such self enquiry ?

Jul 27, 2012
Certain tribes in Occidental Equatorial Africa use the Tabernanthe iboga plant to induce a state of dream-like consciousness where the initiate cannot differentiate between being awake on in a dream. This state will be prolonged, lasting several days. The purpose seems to be to connect more fully the two states thus minimizing the difference between the two.

Contrast that with Western Society's focus on external, at the cost of internal, "realities". The Buddha would contend, I think, that it's all an illusion CREATED BY MIND. I know, I know, define "mind"....... Aarrrrrgghhhhh...into tortured, lonely wail.....

Jul 27, 2012
I don't understand how they group people as lucid dreamers. I've had several lucid dreams where I chose to fly, and it was fun. it don't happen often. I wish I could do it again, but I guess it only happens under certain circumstances. it is like a tug of war, trying to control the dream and keep it going at the same time. I'm very interested in this and in what you can access if you could completely control it

Jul 28, 2012
We are stupid in our dreams because much of the brain is shut off when we are dreaming. When we become lucid more of the brain turns on. It's obvious.

Jul 28, 2012
We are stupid in our dreams because much of the brain is shut off when we are dreaming. When we become lucid more of the brain turns on. It's obvious.
This is assumption, which is wrong to me.

My longest lucid dream was ~4 hrs continuous & inextricable detail of not only technical but spatial and social context..
On other occasions I've had 5 or so lucid dreams in quick succession over the course of a 6 hr snooze then awakening and a further 2 hr deep sleep with excellent rest.

imho, All of us can achieve that state with practice, the very First thing to do is write down on a piece of paper immediately after waking any perceptions whether dreaming or not, keywords etc then after a few mins of stretching & relaxation more info as recollection improves. Date it, leave space on the bottom (ie Each day new A4 sheet), continue to collect in order then once each 2 weeks or so review them, the way the mind responds to the act of recording enhances further dream states :-)

Jul 29, 2012

very interesting. the only lucid dreams i can recall are also of flying. I could arch my back and levitate and then keep it going by doing a dolphin like wriggle. once I was high enough in the air i could coast.

I looked up some dream analysis (dont remember where) and it indicated flying in your dream usually indicates you have unrealistic expectations. This made sense to me because at the time I truly did have unrealistic expectations, and when i adjusted my goals the flying dreams went away, much to my disappointment because flying is cool. Btw i was always worried about power lines and that would wake me up all the way when i got close to them.

Jul 30, 2012
Dream interpretations are mere speculations, the correlative factors are ambiguous and indistinct, the methodology has no protocol or discipline and is untestable. In other words, junk guesses with no causal links.

The subconscious, if you assume that is where some or most dreams arise, is highly suggestible. When I have wanted dreams to explore flying over landscapes and vistas which can offer a clue to the question of "Life, the universe and everything (else)" then that part of me has responded very well indeed. I wake up positive and enthused with dealing with all sorts of strange and sometimes habitually negative people.

Sorry for you Midcliff
The rather more likely explanation of why you do not fly any more in dreams is the negative connotation and your suggestion to your dream centre its '..just not right..' and implies something is 'wrong' with you.

You have told your subconscious and it has taken that order and denied you one or more pleasant experiences.

Jul 30, 2012
Now replace your word 'Dream' with the reseachers' preoccupation of the word 'Location'!
Sorry I dont get the point :-(

its so easy to offer a subtle comment but its based on the assumption others have similar experience, background etc. So I have to ask for clarification. Searches in the page for dream give side bars and there is only one use of the word location and that is in your comment. So please advise a bit more detail and what assumption leads to your comment ?


Jul 31, 2012
I am often lucid when I dream. Most often, I dream I am reading a book. I even turn pages.

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