The Science of DreamsA dream is a display, usually visual, that occurs during the night while we sleep inorder to deal with and asses the things that we have dealt with during the day.
A dream isa remembered residue in the form of creatively assembled visual metaphors(Guiley).In 1900 Sigmund Freud wrote in the The Interpretation of Dreams that dreams aredisguised wishes arising from ones unconscious mind. Having been suppressed by theconscious mind, the wishes sneak into the sleeping brain in the form of dreams. Due toelectoencephalograph machine that recorded the rapid eye movement during sleep andresearch into the physical nature of dreaming, Freud’s theory has been for the most partproven wrong. There is no definitive answer as to what a dream is. There is a raging debate overthe neuroscientific point of view and the psychoanalytical point of view about what it isthat actually causes dreams.
In the next few paragraphs I will look at the proposedanswers from both the neuroscientific and psychoanalytical The process of dreaming starts in the brain stem and is controlled by twoneurotransmitters that in affect turn the dreams on and of. The one that turns the dreamson uses acetylcholine to begin the dream, and the part that turns the dream off usesnorepinephrine and serotonin to end the dream sequence.When the norepinephrine andserotonin are suppressed, the other chemical, acetylcholine allows electrical signals to thecortex. Norepinephrine and serotonin are necessary to imprint the dreams into your longterm memory. This may explain why we forget the majority of our dreams. Since the twochemicals are suppressed during the dreaming process, most dreams are not stored in thelong term memory of our minds.The brain stem neurons also start a sinusoidal wave known as theta rhythm thehippocampus, a brain structure that looks like a sea horse which is believed to beresponsible for the storage of memory.
While this happens, the nerves that usually carryinformation from the world around us shut down(Guiley).If the dream happens during the REM phase of sleep, the person sleeping willexperience an increased heart rate and a temporary paralysis. To prevent the sleeper fromacting out the dream, the brain freezes the muscular activity. Experiments have been doneon cats where the nueral fibers that freeze the movement during REM sleep wereremoved. This resulted in the cats walking around and acting out there dreams. Somepeople do act out there dreams. This disorder can be treated by a drug called Clonazepamwhich is also used to treat epilepsy.
Dreams are different according to when the dream occurs in relation to the periodof sleep. During the REM stage of sleep and at other times or non-REM sleep. There arefour stages of sleep.
As the sleeper goes through the stages of sleep the brain wavesdecrease in frequency. After the sleeper goes through the four stages of sleep, the sleepergoes back through the stages until they are back in stage one. This stage bone is called theEmergent Stage One. This is the time in which most of the REM dreaming occurs. In early 1953 is when the physical science of dreams really began when researchersat the University of Chicago discovered physical signals like rapid eye movement and brainwave patterns that signaled that dreams were in progress. Most all of the research sincethen has focused on the REM stage of sleep. All mammals, and even a few birds andreptiles go through the REM stage of sleep.
In humans as we get older less time is spentin the REM stage of sleep. Fetuses spend most all of their time in the REM stage and newborns spend an average of eight hours a day in REM sleep. Fifty percent of sleep ofinfants and small children is spent in REM sleep. Adults sleep is usually about twentypercent REM sleep, and for older people only fifteen percent of sleep is spent in the REMstage of sleep. Many scientist believe that this is because that REM sleep plays a part inthe learning process and is more important for the younger sleepers(Ackroyd). Eventhough REM sleep has gotten all of the attention when it comes to research, it must be remebered that we do not just dream in the REM stage. NREM are the dreamsthat are usually more logical and are more likely to mirror our recent life experiences.
Hypnagogic dreams are the dreams that happen just before sleep starts. It often happensin the twilight between consciousness and the unconscious. These dreams are not ascomplex as REM dreams and are more verbal as opposed to the visual REM dream.
These dreams seem dull in comparison to the REM dream. These dreams are very similarto sensory deprivation, meditation, and psychedelic drug use.Tranquilizers decrease dream time and many times cause distortions. Barbituratesmake dreams more thought like. LSD increases dream time and nicotine withdrawal alsoincreases dream time.
The dreams of people that have just quit smoking are more intensethan a dream of a normal person. Dreaming is a necessary physiological function. When people are prevented fromdreaming they become anxious, fatigued, irritable, and have difficulty concentrating andremembering. If they are deprived of sleep and dreams long enough they begin to dreamwhile they are awake. When these people are allowed to sleep the mind compensates forthe time it has lost. This has been found through the many experiments that deal withdream deprivation and sleep deprivation.
During REM sleep there are very high levels of hormones in the body than at mostother times. Some scientists believe that REM helps to maintain the proper balance ofhormones in the body. It is also suggested that since there are some neurons that aredormant during REM, which suggests that that period of time is used for restoration andreplenishing them. It is also possible that very traumatic dreams are used by the body aswarning devices of serious physical illness to come.
Some scientists suggest that thedreams that we have during REM sleep are used to keep the brain from falling into apermanent unconsciousness or even death. They also suggest that during sleep the brain isin a coma like state and REM dreams keep it activated and keep it from going into acomplete state of a coma. What we dream about is controlled partly by what sex we are. Men are morelikely to have dreams about outdoors kind of things and unfamiliar settings and alsophysical activity.
Men are not as observant and do not remember things like color andclothing. Men also dream of other men more than women.Women are very observant about their dreams and remember things like facialexpressions, colors, and clothing. When aggressive is present it is usually more verbalthan physical. Women’s dreams usually take place in area that is familiar to them and isusually inside. Women also dream of men and women about the same percent of the time. Pregnant women’s dreams contain a great number of references to animals, water,buildings, and their mothers(guiley).
Women in their second trimester are likely to dreamof amphibians like frogs and turtles.The sex difference is also evident in childrens dreams. Boys tend to show moreanger in their dreams than girls do.
Girls show more fear and positive emotions. Thedream where fear is present is very common among children in general. Fear of animals ispresent in both boys and girls, although boys have more fear of animals.
Girls dream moreabout mammals and boys tend to dream more of things other than mammals. Older people often have dreams about lost resources for coping with problems anda vague sense of apprehension and confusion. Often if there is a solution to the dreamproblem, it involves receiving food or soothing physical comfort.It is very difficult to tell if animals dream. However in a experiment, a monkeywas trained to press a lever when a particular scene appeared on a screen. Later whilesleeping the monkeys were observed to press the lever as if they were dreaming aboutdoing the same thing that they did while did while they were awake(Ackroyd). People that were born with the inability to hear have extremely colorful and vividdreams.
Even though people that had lost their hearing during or after birth have veryvivid dreams, they are not as vivid. There is no evidence that people that are blind frombirth see in their dreams, but their is evidence that rapid eye movement is present. Peoplewho have lost their vision after birth have reported having sight in their dreams. Thedreams of the blind also have a better sense of senses like touch and sound. In conclusion I think that with dreams we would lead very boring lives and wouldhave many more problems to deal with.
Without dreams to deal with some of our moremajor problems I believe that we would fall apart as people and would not be able to gothrough life every day. BibliographyWorks CitedAckroyd, Eric. A Dictionary of Dream Symbols. Blankford Publishing, London. Copyright 1993.Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Dreams.
Crossroads Publishing Co,New York. Copyright 1993Psychology Essays