Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking — awareness of dreaming

Neuroscientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have compared brain structures of frequent lucid dreamers and participants who never or only rarely have lucid dreams. Accordingly, the anterior prefrontal cortex, i.e., the brain area controlling conscious cognitive processes and playing an important role in the capability of self-reflection, is larger in lucid dreamers.

The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and metacognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers. “Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams,” states Elisa Filevich, post-doc in the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

The researchers further want to know whether metacognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.

Caption:In lucid dreamers, the prefrontal cortex enabling self-reflection is bigger in comparision to other people. Credit: MPI for Human Development

Neuroscientists: Quit Smoking Gradually

Researchers at the Univ. of Copenhagen have studied the immediate reaction in the brain after quitting smoking. At just 12 hours after kicking the habit, the oxygen uptake and blood flow in the brain decrease significantly compared to never-smokers. This could explain why it is so difficult to say goodbye to nicotine once and for all. The findings have been published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

Smoking is harmful in almost every respect. Cancer, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are just a small part of a well-documented portfolio of serious consequences of smoking. Nicotine is what makes smoking addictive, but new Danish research suggests that smoking initially increases brain activity. However, the brain tissue quickly adapts and the effect will disappear.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2015/01/neuroscientists-quit-smoking-gradually

Filter on your mouth
  • [Scene:I've taken Luke, age 10, to the barbershop for a haircut...]
  • Barber:"You normally part it on this side, right?"
  • Luke:[with that cool, bored look] "Normally. But not always."
  • Me:"C'mon. You always part it on that side unless you're doing something weird."
  • Luke:"Yeah, but it's normal for me to be weird."
  • Barber:[chuckling, continues working] "We'll go with it for now."
  • Me:[to Luke] "What did you say last week? 'Normally, I don't do anything normal'?"
  • Luke:"Maybe. Who knows. I say a lot of stuff."
  • Me:"That's true. Sometimes there's no filter on your mouth."
  • Luke:"A filter is a waste of brain power."
  • Barber:[shaking his head] "Oh man. I used to be a guy with no filter on his mouth. But a lack of filter can cost you, a lot. Trust me. It will cost you time, and money, and pain. Especially with girls. Lack of filter? Not good."
  • Luke:"I don't care what girls think."
  • Barber:"That will change."
  • Luke:"I'll get a filter when I need it."
  • Me:"You'd better get it sooner rather than later."
  • Barber:"Ain't that the truth."
  • Luke:[sits silently]
  • Me:"So /now/ you have a filter on your mouth?"
  • Luke:[grinning] "Yep. You don't want to know what I was thinking!"

Just so we’re clear

That idea that there is limited memory space in the brain, and that by knowing or learning certain facts you are “taking up” space that could be devoted to other things

Is a myth. Brains do not, as far as we can tell, run out of storage space. Memory problems in humans are a problem of incorrectly encoding/storing info, or simply being unable to retrieve that which has already been stored.

See here: http://io9.com/if-your-brain-were-a-computer-how-much-storage-space-w-509687776

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