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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 31 2013: I'm not an academic, no access to peers etc. but i do think about the logic of why we are as we are. I'm on my own with my ideas and rarely write any: Maybe not a bad thing?
    For me dreams have little if any serious significance.
    First my own experience, (a much shortened version).
    When I was about 20 I dreamt I was a cowboy at a bar and I got stabbed in the back. As I drifted off (presumably to death) I said to myself clearly, "@*7$% I've been stabbed. I'd better wake up quick." I did. I checked the bed for anything sharp that may have caused a sensation but there was nothing.
    Was that lucid dreaming? Did I save myself? Make of that what you will.
    For me, when we try for proper sleep we make every attempt to prevent unwanted stimuli., bedcovers for natural body temperature, darkness to prevent light, and silence. If it's warm we often can't sleep because we can't cool oursleves efficiently and the overwarmth becomes unwanted sensory input. If the brain did shut down completely during sleep how would we ever wake up, hear the alarm etc? My thought on it is the part of the brain that matches incoming information to resident memory (hippocampus?) doesn't shut down, it keeps operating in case there is some incoming stimuli -in the wild a threat perhaps. Think how quickly a dog or cat wakes if something happens, even something we ourselves aren't aware of- When it has no input the hippocampus? flits about in resident memories, (rather like a hosepipe with no one holding it) and dreams however wierd may be the result of delving into old immature memories possibly as far back as birth or even in the womb.
    Perhaps accessing early immature memories may have some connection with sleep paralysis.
    As I said I'm not an academic. It's only ideas (from daydreaming perhaps?) ;0)
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      Apr 2 2013: Wow Phillip,

      Your ideas really ring a bell. Looking back at my dreams (that I still remember), I tend to wake up when a near-death scenario occurs. Perhaps this is the point in the dream that one realizes that reality no longer exists and thus the brain comes back into consciousness.

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