Saturday, May 14, 2022

How Dreams Defend Our Brains

Don't Miss

The Hidden Spring: A Journey To The Source Of Consciousness

Dreams, Rem Sleep, & Sleep Paralysis – How They Affect Our Brains and Health

A renowned neuropsychologist proposes a revelatory new theory of consciousness. In The Hidden Spring, he helps readers recognize the workings of their own minds for what they really are, including every stray thought, pulse of emotion, and shift of attention. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Mark Solms, in the Next Big Idea App

What Determines The Level Of Consciousness During Sleep

Thus, the initial equation of a physiological state with a mental state was incorrect, or at best, an oversimplification. Moreover, neuropsychological evidence indicates that dreaming and REM sleep can be dissociated: forebrain lesions may abolish dreaming and spare REM sleep, whereas brainstem lesions may nearly eliminate overt features of REM sleep without abolishing dreams . But if dream reports can be elicited during any stage of sleep, and conversely some awakenings may yield no report, no matter in which sleep stage they were obtained, where do we stand today with respect to the relationship between brain activity and consciousness during sleep?

The one thing that seems clear is that we need to move beyond the REM/NREM sleep dichotomy and beyond traditional sleep staging. Though staging is useful, it treats brain activity as uniform in space and in time . Inevitably, subtler features of brain activity, which may well influence the presence, degree, and reportability of consciousness, are missed both in space and in time.

I Dreamed That All Of Humanity Was Slowly Blinking Out Of Existence

As the pandemic progressed, dreams about the illness itself began to be mixed with dreams about its secondary effects, especially life under lockdown. These dreams, too, were broadly similar across countries, except that they came at different times, as various countries imposed and lifted restrictions on movement. What divided such dreams, Barrett found, was less national than situational. People quarantining alone often dreamed what she calls exaggerated scenarios of isolation, of abandonment: being held in prison or marooned on a spaceship. One person was sent on a solo trip to Mars for which she had decidedly not volunteered. In contrast, people who found themselves stuck inside with what suddenly felt like too many people had the opposite dream: losing control of their homes to crowds.

As time passed and the pandemic dragged on, Barrett noticed more dreams that she described as post-apocalyptic, often involving small groups of survivors living in changed, dangerous worlds. I dreamed of never returning to life-as-normal, of being old and quarantined with my future grandchildren, one dreamer wrote.

I dreamed that all of humanity was slowly blinking out of existence, another reported, preserved only by me forcefully willing everyone to stay by remembering them.

Don’t Miss: Parkinson’s Disease Midbrain

Why Your Brain Dreams To Defend Itself

We all dream. As a matter of fact, we dream quite a bit more than most people think. On average, your brain creates a dream about every 90 minutes. Dreams have always puzzled scientists with all kinds of theories as to how and why dreams occur.

New extensive research from Dr. David Eagleman at Stanford University provides a fascinating new look at how our brains produce and use dreams to keep you protected and healthy.

How Do Dreams Affect Us


The study of dreams have elicited research, studies, and experiments from scientists for decades. Studies have shown in depth research regarding the causes and effects of our dreams. The University of California Santa Cruz defines dreams a form of thinking that occurs when there is certain yet minimal brain activity going on, such as when youre sleeping. Everyone at some point in their life has tried to experience lucid dreaming, or the dreaming in which you are consciously aware that you are in a dreaming state. Dreams have fascinated people since the beginning of time and the more scientists study dreams, the more information we are able to find out about ourselves and our brains.

Dreams overall can have much more of an impact on our brains than wed like to believe. Whether it is affecting our moods, relationships, or defining issues and problems in our lives, it is clear that dreams can affect our day-to-day actions without our knowledge. So next time you wake up in the middle of the night due to a crazy man chasing you down the street, remember to define the context of the chase and identify the man pursuing you.

Also Check: Does Prevagen Help With Memory Loss

The Oracle Of Night: The History And Science Of Dreams

A groundbreaking history of the human mind told through our experience of dreamsfrom the earliest accounts to current scientific findingsand their essential role in the formation of who we are and the world we have made. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Sidarta Ribeiro, in the Next Big Idea App

An Almanac Of Covid Dreams

Last night I had a combo sex/anxiety dream that included Stanley Tucci, Saul Rubinek, an acting exam and the tragic death by kite of my teenage son.

Perhaps this sounds like an oxymoron. Science, after all, is about what is observable, quantifiable, testable, predictable, explicable and dreams are none of these things. They happen inside someone elses head, quite invisibly to observers, and can be accessed, at best, through blurry and fragmented bits of fast-fading memory. Their bizarre, arbitrary-seeming contents seem to defy all narrative logic . As Barrett worked her way through a Ph.D. in psychology, she learned that many experts in the field believed that dreams were fundamentally meaningless that they had no evolutionary purpose of their own and were merely a side effect of random neural firings as the sleeping brain went about more important business. It was silly, the thinking went, to pay too much attention to the results of dozy neurons making odd little stories out of loose bits and pieces rattling about in our brains.

Read Also: What Part Of The Brain Initiates Voluntary Movement

Contemporary Theories Of Dreams

A hypothesis for the evolved purpose of sleep must outline a clear and distinct function from other aspects of sleep. It must also explain how dreams present themselves, that is, the phenomenology of dream experience. Specifically, it must explain why dream phenomenology is different from wake phenomenology. Consider three phenomenological properties unique to dreams. First, the sparseness of dreams in that they are generally less vivid than waking life in that they contain less sensory and conceptual information . This lack of detail in dreams is universal, and examples include the blurring of text causing an impossibility of reading, using phones, or calculations. Second, the hallucinatory quality of dreams in that they are generally unusual in some way . This includes the fact that in dreams, events and concepts often exist outside of normally strict categories . Third, the narrative property of dreams, in that dreams in adult humans are generally sequences of events ordered such that they form a narrative, albeit a fabulist one. As we will see, the OBH posits it is not in spite of these properties that dreams serve their evolved purpose, but because of them.

This section explores existent theories of dreams, the supporting evidence and how they fail to integrate well with, or explain, dream phenomenology.

Are Dreams More Like Perception Or Imagination

How We Protect Our Brains!!

Whether dreams are generated in a bottom-up or a top-down manner is a question that has been asked since at least Aristotle. To put the question in a modern context, do dreams start from activity in low-level sensory areas, which is then interpreted and synthesized by higher-order areas, as is presumably the case in waking perception? Or do they begin as wishes, abstract thoughts, and memories deep in the brain, which are then enriched with perceptual and sensory aspects, as in imagination? Of course, it is possible that such a dichotomy is misguided, and dreams may be best conceptualized as global attractors that emerge simultaneously over many brain areas. However, as we shall see, the available data do indeed suggest that there may be a privileged direction of dream generation.

Also Check: Cognitive Impairment Parkinson’s Disease

Evidence From Deep Learning

One of the most significant, and ubiquitous, challenges any deep neural network faces is the ability to generalize beyond the dataset it has been trained on, that is, to avoid simply memorizing the dataset. There has been significant effort in the past decade by the deep learning community to develop methods and techniques to avoid overfitting on particular datasets and, at the broadest level, to allow for extrapolation to never-before-seen datasets. This section overviews three commonly used such techniques within deep learning . Notably, each of these three techniques embodies some phenomenological property of dreams and also fits with what is known about the neurophysiology of dreaming.

Overall, the overlap between the phenomenology of dreams and common methods in the field of deep learning for mitigating overfitting, avoiding pure memorization, and assisting generalization lend credence to the idea that the evolved function of dreaming is for precisely these purposes.

A Strong And Deep Sleep Is The Key To A Clear Mind

We all know this feeling when learning something new that our brain is just full of incoherent facts. This is understandable, because he is working hard to build new neural connections. But this is still half the battle, because he has to simultaneously destroy old neural connections, replacing them with new ones. As a rule, this happens in a dream. Sometimes microglial cells have to clean up to 60 of our neural connections. And they are trying for you: to make room for new knowledge and skills.

Do you know the feeling when you wake up in the morning with a clear head? Thank the microglial cells for this. It was they who cleaned your garden overnight. Now you can start learning success is guaranteed.

You May Like: What Does Fluoride Do To Your Brain

A Cure For Darkness: The Story Of Depression And How We Treat It

Reporting on the field of global mental health from its colonial past to the present day, an award-winning science writer highlights a range of scalable therapies, including how a group of grandmothers stands on the frontline of a mental health revolution. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Alex Riley, in the Next Big Idea App

When Brains Dream: Exploring The Science And Mystery Of Sleep


Two sleep researchers reveal recent discoveries about why dreams are psychologically and neurologically meaningful experiences. They also explore a host of dream-related disorders, and explain how dreams can facilitate creativity and be a source of personal insight. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by authors Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold, in the Next Big Idea App

Read Also: What Does The Front Of The Brain Control

Dreaming Is Like Overnight Therapy

Its said that time heals all wounds, but my research suggests that time spent in dream sleep is what heals. REM-sleep dreaming appears to take the painful sting out of difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes experienced during the day, offering emotional resolution when you awake the next morning.

REM sleep is the only time when our brain is completely devoid of the anxiety-triggering molecule noradrenaline. At the same time, key emotional and memory-related structures of the brain are reactivated during REM sleep as we dream. This means that emotional memory reactivation is occurring in a brain free of a key stress chemical, which allows us to re-process upsetting memories in a safer, calmer environment.

How do we know this is so? In one study in my sleep center, healthy young adult participants were divided into two groups to watch a set of emotion-inducing images while inside an MRI scanner. Twelve hours later, they were shown the same emotional imagesbut for half the participants, the twelve hours were in the same day, while for the other half the twelve hours were separated by an evening of sleep.

The evidence points toward an important function of dreams: to help us take the sting out of our painful emotional experiences during the hours we are asleep, so that we can learn from them and carry on with our lives.

What Is A Dream

A dream includes the images, thoughts, and emotions that are experienced during sleep. Dreams can range from extraordinarily intense or emotional to very vague, fleeting, confusing, or even boring. Some dreams are joyful, while others are frightening or sad. Sometimes dreams seem to have a clear narrative, while many others appear to make no sense at all.

There are many unknowns about dreaming and sleep, but what scientists do know is that just about everyone dreams every time they sleep, for a total of around two hours per night, whether they remember it upon waking or not.

Beyond what’s in a particular dream, there is the question of why we dream at all. Below, we detail the most prominent theories on the purpose of dreaming and how these explanations can be applied to specific dreams.

Also Check: Why Do People Get Brain Freeze

The Awakened Brain: The New Science Of Spirituality And Our Quest For An Inspired Life

Absorbing, uplifting, and ultimately enlightening, The Awakened Brain is a conversation-starting saga of scientific discovery packed with counterintuitive findings and practical advice on concrete ways to access your innate spirituality and build a life of meaning and contribution. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Lisa Miller, in the Next Big Idea App

Dreaming Enhances Creativity And Problem

What Do Our Brains Do When We’re Dreaming?- with Mark Solms

Its been shown that deep non-REM sleep strengthens individual memories. But REM sleep is when those memories can be fused and blended together in abstract and highly novel ways. During the dreaming state, your brain will cogitate vast swaths of acquired knowledge and then extract overarching rules and commonalties, creating a mindset that can help us divine solutions to previously impenetrable problems.

How do we know dreaming and not just sleep is important to this process?

In one study, we tested this by waking up participants during the nightduring both non-REM sleep and dreaming sleepand gave them very short tests: solving anagram puzzles, where you try to unscramble letters to form a word . First, participants were tested beforehand, just to familiarize them with the test. Then, we monitored their sleep and woke them up at different points of the night to perform the test. When woken during non-REM sleep, they were not particularly creativethey could solve very few puzzles. But, when we woke up participants during REM sleep, they were able to solve 15-35 percent more puzzles than when they were awake. Not only that, participants woken while dreaming reported that the solution just popped into their heads, as if it were effortless.

Some may consider this trivial, but it is one of the key operations differentiating your brain from your computer. It also underlies the difference between knowledge and wisdom . The latter seems to be the work of REM-sleep dreaming.

Recommended Reading: Cebria Ingredients List

How Dreams May Help Us Declutter Our Brains And Solve Problems

Do you remember your dreams from last night? In how much detail? Were they related to anything you experienced during the prior day?

Some people have gone so far as to say that most people dont dream in color. This is mostly antiscience nonsense Of course, to answer this conjecture requires interrogating sleep subjects immediately upon waking. This causes the memories to be reconstructive and whether they remember dreaming in color is biased by their perceptions of how they think they should have dreamed . Incidentally, when dreamers were awakened and told to quickly point to color charts to select which colors most closely match those in their dreams, they often choose pastels.

But why do we dream?

New research suggests that dreaming is a physiological and biochemical way to de-clutter our brains over night, as well as allow for creative problem-solving from generalizations we make from daily experiences. However, instead of one type of sleep being better than another, the research team combined a couple of current working hypotheses and now suggest that REM and non-REM work together synergistically to accomplish this organization and solution-finding.

As explained in an article published in the Atlantic:

Why Do We Dream A New Theory On How It Protects Our Brains

David Eagleman Don VaughnEagleman is a neuroscientist at Stanford University. His latest book is Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain.Vaughn PhD is a neuroscientist at UCLA.

When he was two years old, Ben stopped seeing out of his left eye. His mother took him to the doctor and soon discovered he had retinal cancer in both eyes. After chemotherapy and radiation failed, surgeons removed both his eyes. For Ben, vision was gone forever.

But by the time he was seven years old, he had devised a technique for decoding the world around him: he clicked with his mouth and listened for the returning echoes. This method enabled Ben to determine the locations of open doorways, people, parked cars, garbage cans, and so on. He was echolocating: bouncing his sound waves off objects in the environment and catching the reflections to build a mental model of his surroundings.

Echolocation may sound like an improbable feat for a human, but thousands of blind people have perfected this skill, just like Ben did. The phenomenon has been written about since at least the 1940s, when the word echolocation was first coined in a Science article titled Echolocation by Blind Men, Bats, and Radar.

How could blindness give rise to the stunning ability to understand the surroundings with ones ears? The answer lies in a gift bestowed on the brain by evolution: tremendous adaptability.

And this, we propose, is why we dream.

For more information:

You May Like: How Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect The Brain

More articles

Popular Articles