By Peter A. Luber © 2014
People have sought to understand how our mind perceives the world from the beginning of history. Although no written records have survived, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (570 BC – 495 BC) has been credited with the insight of gaining wisdom in the darkness of caves.
Giving him credit may be based more on legend than fact but it demonstrates early attempts to see with what has been called the mind‘s eye. Building upon this, sensory deprivation has been recognized as a valid technique for creating an atmosphere that allows the mind to control the experience instead of permitting the environment to dictate what we see and feel.
By the 1950‘s isolation tanks took this a step further by blocking all light and sound while reducing the distracting effects of gravity. Developed in 1954 by neuro-psychiatrist John C. Lily to test the hypothesis that if all stimuli were eliminated the brain would go to sleep, it led to an ongoing study into consciousness and the brainwaves generated while entering a relaxed state of being. What was gained from these tests is that the brain does simply shut off if deprived of stimuli although it does generate unique frequencies.
The study of brainwaves has been an ongoing subject for the lucid dreaming community as the data reveals how the brain generates specific frequencies that have been associated with the various states of consciousness including lucid dreams.
In the well publicized 2009 study conducted by the Neurological Sleep Clinic Lab in Frankfurt, Germany, it was revealed that their research suggested that lucid dreamers generate very fast frequencies referred to as Gamma waves, peaking around 40Hz.
Occurring in the frontal and frontolateral areas of the brain, regions associated with self-awareness, it makes the case that lucid dreaming should be considered a unique state of consciousness. Now a new study has taken these results and used them as the basis for stimulating lucidity.
Although people have experimented with chemical stimulants, binaural beat audio, and various forms of self discipline in an effort to increase their own awareness while meditating or within a dream, this new research takes a different approach.
Psychologist Ursula Voss of J.W. Goethe-University in Frankfurt along with her team outfitted volunteers with electrodes that applied the same low voltage 40Hz frequencies to their sleeping subjects who then reported a dramatic increase in the number of lucid dreams. To maintain the integrity of the experiment, it was conducted as double-blind – meaning neither the researchers or the volunteers knew who would be receiving the 40Hz cranial stimulation according to the report posted on Nature NeuroScience.
Despite the sometimes conflicting results of various studies of lucid dreams that have been conducted through the decades, this latest finding is of interest as the science behind it is more mature than ever. However, it is recommended that any research that involves electric stimulation of the brain should only be conducted under medical supervision.