TED Conversations

Jonathan Huang

Zeta Psi Fraternity of North America

This conversation is closed.

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)


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 1 2013: Hi Jonathan,

    I remember reading about dreams as randomly chosen memories in our brains. So if we think about certain things for a longer period of time, they are more likely to appear in our dreams. Exploring what/how we dream can be valuable in the sense that it helps us understand our brain better. Control of dreams will require extensive understanding of how our brain works, and it will definitely be of our advantage to be able to do so.
    • thumb
      Apr 1 2013: Hi Kyung!

      I completely agree with you! Dreams allow a passage into one's subconscious mind. What we learn and retain during the daytime, manifests themselves in our dreams. This must mean that our brains reprocess information that we collected during the day. "I'll sleep on it" is a very common saying for those that need more time and a clearer mind to make a decision or understand a concept. Similarly, it is said that if you read before bed, or review a to-do list for the next day, you will wake up the next morning with a clearer, more organized thought process. Therefore, a lot happens in our brains while we rest!

      Being able to interpret and control our dreams opens a doorway into understanding in more detail, how the brain retains, processes and organizes information, even how to help those that have problems with retention or processing, like Alzheimer's and autism patients, and people with ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities. Understanding how their brains work differently or similarly helps get us closer to developing greater medicine and providing people with the faith and reassurance that everyone is equally equipped and capable to do great things.
      • thumb
        Apr 2 2013: Swetha,

        I never really thought about how my dreams come about. But now that you mention relating dreams to daytime memories, I can recall many dreams that have come about from events that have occurred during my conscious state.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.