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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    Apr 2 2013: Wow Jon, thank you so much for posting the video by Shilo Suleman. She was fascinating and so inspiring. She made me miss my imagination. I love to dream because it allows me to dip into ideas that are new and different from the things I read and think about all day long. The idea of being able to control my dreams, lucid dreaming, is both fascinating and terrifying. On one hand there is the possibility that I can do anything in my dreams, fly, breath under water, meet aliens, the possibilities are endless and fun to consider. On the other hand, what happens if I learn to control my dreams and then they lose their edge of fantasy?

    You also ask if there is some correlation between the ability to control our dreams and having more control of our brain during the awake phase. I don't know about that correlation but I think Kyung Lee's comment addresses the usefulness of lucid dreaming. I agree with Kyung that exploring how we dream will help us to understand the mind and how it functions.

    I really enjoyed your question, links and reading everyone's responses. Very fun topic!
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      Apr 2 2013: Thats my problem with lucid dreaming and controlling your dreams. What happens if the dreams lose their mystic nature when we learn to fully control our dreams? Is this a part of human nature that is now lost?

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