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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 May;100:305-323. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.03.008. Epub 2019 Mar 14.

The cognitive neuroscience of lucid dreaming.

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Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA. Electronic address:
Brain Institute, Physiology Department and Onofre Lopes University Hospital - Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil.
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.


Lucid dreaming refers to the phenomenon of becoming aware of the fact that one is dreaming during ongoing sleep. Despite having been physiologically validated for decades, the neurobiology of lucid dreaming is still incompletely characterized. Here we review the neuroscientific literature on lucid dreaming, including electroencephalographic, neuroimaging, brain lesion, pharmacological and brain stimulation studies. Electroencephalographic studies of lucid dreaming are mostly underpowered and show mixed results. Neuroimaging data is scant but preliminary results suggest that prefrontal and parietal regions are involved in lucid dreaming. A focus of research is also to develop methods to induce lucid dreams. Combining training in mental set with cholinergic stimulation has shown promising results, while it remains unclear whether electrical brain stimulation could be used to induce lucid dreams. Finally, we discuss strategies to measure lucid dreaming, including best-practice procedures for the sleep laboratory. Lucid dreaming has clinical and scientific applications, and shows emerging potential as a methodology in the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness. Further research with larger sample sizes and refined methodology is needed.


Consciousness; Dreaming; Lucid dreaming; Meta-awareness; REM sleep

[Available on 2020-05-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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