Tag Archive: Dreams


rat in maze

Researchers working at MIT have successfully manipulated the content of a rat’s dream by replaying an audio cue that was associated with the previous day’s events, namely running through a maze (what else).

The breakthrough furthers our understanding of how memory gets consolidated during sleep — but it also holds potential for the prospect of “dream engineering.” Working at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, neuroscientist Matt Wilson was able to accomplish this feat by exploiting the way the brain’s hippocampus encodes self-experienced events into memory.

Scientists know that our hippocampus is busy at work replaying a number of the day’s events while we sleep — a process that’s crucial for memory consolidation. But what they did not know was whether or not these “replays” could be influenced by environmental cues.

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Dreams are a peculiar aspect of the human mind, and the scientific study of dreaming — oneirology — seeks to illuminate this phenomena.

Reported in the Current Biology, a recent experiment from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, with assistance from Charité Hospital in Berlin, has been able to reveal dream content by analyzing brain activity of a select few individuals with a unique ability to objectively control their dreaming — known as lucid dreaming. This will help us better understand the neurophysiologic processes that occur while we are sleeping.

Lucid dreaming is when you become aware you are dreaming, and have the ability to then control your dream’s environment. This lucidity usually occurs mid-dream when the sleeper becomes conscious that the physical reality in which they are present is not real. This may be triggered by the peculiarity of the scenario in which the dreamers find themselves.

According to lead author Martin Dresler, “about half of people have had a lucid dream,” though “very few have them on a regular basis.” Although some people have the innate ability to have lucid dreams, this ability can be taught and developed in a way similar to learning another language.

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Trust Us: Why do we dream?

Horizon uncovers the secret world of our dreams. In a series of cutting-edge experiments and personal stories, we go in search of the science behind this most enduring mystery and ask: where do dreams come from? Do they have meaning? And ultimately, why do we dream?

What the film reveals is that much of what we thought we knew no longer stands true. Dreams are not simply wild imaginings but play a significant part in all our lives as they have an impact on our memories, the ability to learn, and our mental health. Most surprisingly, we find nightmares, too, are beneficial and may even explain the survival of our species.

Is your life really your life, or is it actually the dream of a butterfly? Or is it a complex computer simulation indistinguishable from “real” reality? Don’t worry, it’s just a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.

Questions about the nature of reality weren’t invented by high-as-a-kite college sophomores. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi noticed sometime around 300 BCE that his dreams of being something other than human (a butterfly, most famously) were indistinguishable from his experience being Zhuangzi. He could not say with certainty that he was Zhuangzi dreaming of being a butterfly rather than a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuangzi.

The whole “reality is an illusion” idea has been kicked around by everyone from Siddhartha to the existentialists. It is Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom who is most often associated with the idea that we are living in a computer simulation.

His premise is based on a series of assumptions:

1). A technological society could eventually achieve the capability of creating a computer simulation that is indistinguishable from reality to the inhabitants of the simulation.

2). Such a society would not do this once or twice. They would create many such simulations.

3). Left to run long enough the societies within the simulations would eventually be able to create their own simulations, also indistinguishable from reality to the sub-simulations inhabitants.

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What do Moby Dick, the Salem witch trials and alien abductions all have in common? They all circle back to sleep paralysis.

Less than 8 percent of the general population experiences sleep paralysis, but it is more frequent in two groups — students and psychiatric patients — according to a new study by psychologists at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania.

Sleep paralysis is defined as “a discrete period of time during which voluntary muscle movement is inhibited, yet ocular and respiratory movements are intact,” the researchers state in the current issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews. Hallucinations may also be present in these transitions to or from sleep.

Alien abductions and incubi and succubi, as well as other demons that attack while people are asleep, are implicated as different cultural interpretations of sleep paralysis. The Salem witch trials are now thought possibly to involve the townspeople experiencing sleep paralysis. And in the 19th-century novel Moby Dick, the main character Ishmael experiences an episode of sleep paralysis in the form of a malevolent presence in the room.

Brian A. Sharpless, clinical assistant professor of psychology and assistant director of the psychological clinic at Penn State, noted that some people who experience these episodes may regularly try to avoid going to sleep because of the unpleasant sensations they experience. But other people enjoy the sensations they feel during sleep paralysis.

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UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.

The left clip is a segment of the movie that the subject viewed while in the magnet. The right clip shows the reconstruction of this movie from brain activity measured using fMRI. The reconstruction was obtained using only each subject’s brain activity and a library of 18 million seconds of random YouTube video

More here.

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