Geo Bell 26/12/2015
Glitches In The Matrix
You're stood in a familiar room. It's dark in here, and you reach over to the light switch by the doorway. You flick the switch expecting the room to light up, but instead, there you stand in the still dark room, wondering if the bulb's seen better days. The reality is that you're dreaming, and attempting to flick a light switch is one of the most reliable reality checks going.
At this point I should hope you'd become lucid, and then gone about your business with the knowledge that everything you were experiencing was a dream, and the wonderful benefits that come with lucidity.
But why exactly does the bulb not turn on?
The reason behind this lies in the nature of the dreamworld. Lucid dreamers discover early on that a number of seemingly simple tasks produce unexpected results in dreams. Research by LaBerge has proven a number of phenomena which oneironauts have been using to become lucid for years...
Light switches don't work.
Flick the switch – nothing. Flick it again – still nothing.
Electronics don't function correctly / as they would in waking life.
Check the time on your digital watch – nonsense. Try texting a friend on your phone – where'd that last sentence go?!
Reading text coherently more than once fails.
Sentences tend to scramble or change into hieroglyphics.
Your projected dream hands fluctuate in details and morphology.
I have 6 fingers on each hand. I must be dreaming.
Dreams Are Near-perfect Simulations
Contrary to popular myth, the left-hemisphere of your brain is not completely offline whilst you dream. While not completely unfounded, the notion that the areas of the brain (grossly referred to as the left-hemisphere) which predominantly handle critical thinking, calculative and logical tasks, are completely inactive whilst we dream, is a slight exaggeration.
While the exact neurology of dreams is still not entirely elucidated, the general consensus among dream researchers is that the brain networks which we rely upon for processing detailed information, among other things, is one of the areas of the brain which are least active during REM sleep.
The orbital frontal cortex (the part of your brain which governs critical thinking) for example, is much less active during REM sleep than it is during waking, which accounts for the curious inability to think logically in (non-lucid) dreams.
So, the reason why these glitches in the dream matrix occur is because the process of creating dreams is predominantly a function of the right-hemisphere, whilst the detailed information processing areas of the brain have much less input.
Despite these imperfections in the dreamworld, our experiences in this transient dimension feel as real as 'real life'. The same neural networks through which we process external sensory input are stimulated in our dreams. When we bite into a dream apple, it tastes and feels like biting into a real apple, because to our mind, our dreams, and thus the apple are real.
So, the next time you do a reality check, remember that it's not because you lack the brain power to switch that light on – it's just the parts of your brain which could turn it on, are ironically, pretty much asleep.