Dreamweaver Beware!

For those of you interested in what dreams mean, rest easy knowing that scientists are working on that problem?

In the first part of the new study, neuroscientist Yukiyasu Kamitani and colleagues at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan monitored three young men as they tried to get some sleep inside an fMRI scanner while the machine monitored their brain activity. The researchers also monitored each volunteer’s brain activity with EEG electrodes, and when they saw an EEG signature indicative of dreaming, they woke him up to ask what he’d been dreaming about.

The folk at Wikipedia have some pondering on dreams too.

I’ve been thinking about what dreams might be in view of my thoughts on free will and the internal simulation that we run in our heads.  Some preliminary thoughts are:

  • Energy is not free – shutting down the simulation reduces energy consumption while needed for other things.
  • Neuro-plasticity of the brain indicates that memory areas are not all permanent so we might need time to move memories to permanent storage
  • It appears that storing memories requires reliving them in some way. It would be very freaky to have to relive the last 8 hours in your head to store the memories, so shutting down the simulation probably is useful.
  • Nothing the body does is absolutely perfect, so we don’t always remember dreams or perhaps the perfect part is remembering them but not being able to recall this?
  • Prophetic dreams don’t seem to happen to many people in the last 2000 years. Don’t worry that they are prognostications.

Anyway, I’m beginning to think about dreams and other processes of the brain and how they fit in that simulation framework.

  1. This should be interesting. I think knowing what goes on as we dream would be an interesting field of study

    • Well, I have studied it a bit before I ever got to the idea of an internal simulation so that is where I’m really going to start off… there is a book and everything!

  2. I’ve also been very interested in memory/dream experiences but it seems like a lot of the literature I’ve read is fascinating horseshit. The linked article is interesting in that it could successfully predict specific dreamt objects (but only objects the dreamer was previously programmed to dream about) based on brain activity.

    The two main theories of dreams as mechanisms for either remembering or forgetting have the common problem of oversimplifying, polarizing something as complex as the human brain. Too often in the cognitive sciences a blip on an EEG monitor is met with guys in lab coats jumping up and down, pointing, and prematurely shouting “Eureka!” While the study seems like a promising start—we’re still a long way from some definitive understanding of dreams.

    I like your points:
    “Neuro-plasticity of the brain indicates that memory areas are not all permanent so we might need time to move memories to permanent storage…It appears that storing memories requires reliving them in some way…”

    Memory is a tricky thing. Other than certain savants with photographic memory, the average human brain is fragile, if it tried to remember every single thing, obviously we would be overloaded with irrelevant information. So how do we to know the truth (even the validity of our own memories) without all relevant data? There is no mechanism in the brain that allows us direct access to historical truth. There’s no way events can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains– they’re experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected. Luckily the brain is flexible and creative and what we assert to be true is dependent on our senses and imagination (possibly dreams?). Memory depends on the stories we tell each other and ourselves—stories which we continuously refine/reconstruct. Narrative truth is our truth…

    Sorry, just realized I was rambling! I hope some of this makes some sense and is somewhat relevant… I just get a bit carried away sometimes. Keep up the good work and let me know if you ever figure out why I keep dreaming I’m a grilled cheese sandwich…

    • Holy crap! That is awesome. I’m going to use that because you have written up what I think to be true already. The mechanism for this is something I’m pondering/researching now. And of course the ramifications that memory is not ‘explicitly accurate or true’ and how this works with the framework of experiencing the world through the lens of a simulation running in our brains.

      Thanks you. Makes a lot of sense.

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