TED Conversations

Jonathan Huang

Zeta Psi Fraternity of North America

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What good is being able to control our dreams?

This week in my Bioelectricity class, we discussed electrical stimulation and extracellular fields. We learned about how voltages far away from electrical sources in the body (eg the brain and heart) are directly linked to voltages across cell membranes.

We learned that in 1924, a German physiologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger recorded the first human electroencephalogram (EEG). From our discussion in class, it was evident that EEG activity for awake humans is quite similar to EEG activity during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. An intriguing correlation arrises as lucid dreaming, the act of controlling ones dreams or at least being aware of dreaming, occurs during the REM cycle of sleep.

My question is what does controlling our dreams mean to us as humans? Beyond treating those who suffer from night terrors, is there some correlation between the ability to control our dreams and having more control of our brains during our awake phase? Since people are able to "teach" themselves to lucid dream, does that mean we can use our brains in other ways that we don't yet know of? Or should we allow our dreams to remain "free..."

We can even talk about different forms of dreaming. Shilo Shiv Suleman shows in her INK talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/shilo_shiv_suleman_using_tech_to_enable_dreaming.html) an iPad app that enables the user to enter a fantasy world of dreaming. She says that this form of dreaming is missing from todays youth.

In Daniel Wopert's "The Real Reason for Brains" he says that brains exist solely to control movement. Does this mean that dreaming has no meaning? (http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains.html)

Lastly, we can even ask what exists between the lines of dreaming and consciousness? Antonio Damasio shines light into this question in his TED talk "The Quest To Understand Consciousness" by looking at the living brain. (http://www.ted.com/talks/antonio_damasio_the_quest_to_understand_consciousness.html)


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    Mar 29 2013: my dreams had many levels of metaphour,many symbols summerizing long complex battles with myself and my enviornment. They are a science fiction world that paralles my own,and what happens in them creates a measurable celluliod film of how Im doing in this world. Taking hold of the events in my dreams,learning to fly better,learning to fight or run if nessesary,recieving insights and information that improves my position in this world is worth my effort..and becomes an affirmation that whatever I am ultimately I am in agreement with myself on all levels.Information from the dream world for me is more strongly instructional then what is sent in volumes at me from this reality...it is a path to be located here at some point...I will see it and know it... the information demands attention. On a hypothetical note,I have often thought this may be where we slip into when death occurs,so to study and be competent for this probability seems not only a good idea as a hobby,but as an investment...just in case
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      Mar 30 2013: Carolyn,

      Very interesting view on dreams! I can see that you value your dreams immensely and that they really mean a lot to you. You say your dreams parallel your reality. Does this mean that nightmares and such mean that things arent going so well in real life? While enjoyable dreams represent a happy reality? This is interesting!

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