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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 30 2013: Hi John,
    I thought your question about teaching ourselves to lucid dream and perhaps using our brain unknown ways is very interesting. Lucid dreaming does require practice, it’s a skill we can learn after working at it for a period of time; so maybe we can teach our brain other things as well? The brain is such an incredible entity, I feel there is so much more it can do that we just don’t know about. Our brains have an incredible capacity to learn and grow so with the right training, I’m sure we can accomplish a lot. I think dreams are always free no matter how hard we try to control them. Even during lucid dreaming, the dreams take us places we cannot go when fully conscious. Shilo Shiv Suleman stresses the importance of dreaming and how we must not lose the ability to imagine up fantasy worlds. I agree, I feel dreams are much more important than we often think because they allow our brain to create ideas in the most limitless way possible.
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      Mar 31 2013: I agree with both Neema and Lauren that there is so much about the brain that we are learning each day. I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future we do find a direct correlation between the two. [It's interesting to note, that many years ago, the later prophets prophesied only in while asleep and "dreaming."]
      The very limited information I know about lucid dreaming is based on the Hollywood film, Inception, but I see no reason to believe that our brains have that incredible capacity to "train" our conscious. In a sense, it might be, that dreams can in fact influence the day to day decisions of humans. If scientists are in fact able to prove the correlation between the conscious of a human while sleeping and awake, perhaps more people will start listening/believing in their prophetic dreams.

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