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)

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: Lucid Dreaming has been on my mind since first entering Cooper Union and joining its "Lucid Dreaming Club".
    One thing that is interesting about controlling ones dreams is that it allows us the ability to synthesize and process things that occur during our conscious life.

    Wopert, I feel is incorrect in that our brains are only for movement. Emotions, thoughts, and ideas are all housed in brain functions and how could those exist if our brains are limited to only providing us physical movement.

    Many mornings I wake from a dream and lay in bed until I can make sense of why a certain person or situationmanifested itself in my dream. It is truly eye opening to realize what my subconscious is working on during my slumbers.

    When learning to control one's dreams, the first step is to begin a dream diary. As it is stated in the film Waking Life, "They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It’s not dead it’s just that it’s been forgotten, removed from our language. Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. The dreamer is banished to obscurity."

    I couldnt agree more. The importance of dreams was once so clear to humankind and it seems as though it has lost value as more people discard their dreams to obscurity.

    The quote continues: "Well, I’m trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day. Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds. Our planet is facing the greatest problems it’s ever faced, ever. So whatever you do, don’t be bored, this is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting."

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.