More:ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2011) - The ability to dream is a fascinating aspect of the human mind. However, how the images and emotions that we experience so intensively when we dream form in our heads remains a mystery. Up to now it has not been possible to measure dream content. Max Planck scientists working with colleagues from the Charité hospital in Berlin have now succeeded, for the first time, in analysing the activity of the brain during dreaming.
They were able to do this with the help of lucid dreamers, i.e. people who become aware of their dreaming state and are able to alter the content of their dreams. The scientists measured that the brain activity during the dreamed motion matched the one observed during a real executed movement in a state of wakefulness.
The research is published in the journal Current Biology.
Methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging have enabled scientists to visualise and identify the precise spatial location of brain activity during sleep. However, up to now, researchers have not been able to analyse specific brain activity associated with dream content, as measured brain activity can only be traced back to a specific dream if the precise temporal coincidence of the dream content and measurement is known. Whether a person is dreaming is something that could only be reported by the individual himself.
Scientists from 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 availed of the ability of lucid dreamers to dream consciously for their research. Lucid dreamers were asked to become aware of their dream while sleeping in a magnetic resonance scanner and to report this "lucid" state to the researchers by means of eye movements. They were then asked to voluntarily "dream" that they were repeatedly clenching first their right fist and then their left one for ten seconds.