Dreams: What Are They? Where Do They Come From?

EnolaGaia

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There are all sorts of angles people take on the subject of dreams - e.g., how to interpret them, whether they're somehow a manifestation of paranormal phenonema, how to enrich one's dream experiences, etc. Meanwhile - and with much less fanfare - research continues on the basic issue of what dreams are in the first place.
Massive Study of 24,000 Dreams Suggests They Really Are Continuations of Reality

Where do dreams come from? It's an age-old question, something people have been wondering and theorising about for millennia.

Whereas ancient civilisations may have interpreted dreams as having supernatural or spiritual origins, in modern society, we're more likely to analyse our dreams in terms of our waking life, looking for meaningful connections linking the content of dreams with lived experiences from our day-to-day existence.

"Research has repeatedly provided strong support for what sleep scientists refer to as the 'continuity hypothesis of dreams': most dreams are a continuation of what is happening in everyday life," researchers led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy explain in a new study.

"It turns out that everyday life impacts dreaming (e.g. anxiety in life leads to dreams with negative affect) and vice versa (e.g. dreaming impacts problem-solving skills)." ...

In contemporary dream analysis, therapists attempt to help patients interpret their dreams, via the use of dream reports, looking for clues, symbols, and structures that might correspond with other parts of the dreamer's life.

One of the most well regarded systems for interpreting dream reports is called the Hall and Van de Castle system, which codifies dreams in terms of the characters that appear within them, the interactions these characters have, and the effects these interactions subsequently have on the characters, among many other concepts.

One problem with the system however, is that it can be a slow and time-consuming process ...

Fogli and his team have come up with a new way of doing this – one which they used to track people's dreams on a vast scale, analysing a set of 24,000 dreams from a giant public database of dream reports called DreamBank.

"We designed a tool that automatically scores dream reports by operationalising the widely used dream analysis scale by Hall and Van de Castle," the researchers explain.

"We validated the tool's effectiveness on hand-annotated dream reports … and tested what sleep scientists call the 'continuity hypothesis' at this unprecedented scale." ...

When they compared the output of their language processing tool against hand-annotated notes of dream reports written by dream experts, the results matched about three-quarters of the time; not a perfect score, but a promising signal that suggests technological developments like this could lead to new kinds of breakthroughs in dream research.

The researchers also found in their data evidence to support the continuity hypothesis – the notion that dreams are a continuation of what happens in everyday life. ...

The findings are reported in Royal Society Open Science.

FULL STORY:
https://www.sciencealert.com/giant-...s-where-our-strange-nightly-visions-come-from

RESEARCH REPORT:
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.192080
 

Cloudbusting

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Interesting that you've posted this because I've been thinking a lot about dreams today, i.e. what they are and whether we'll ever understand their purpose.

What I'd like to understand is, why are they so weird, and yet our brains are fooled into going along with them? It's funny how often our dreaming world seems 'wrong' in comparison to our waking life, and yet we rarely realise that we're dreaming. Perhaps it's something to do with certain parts of the brain not being as active, making it difficult for us to make those connections... but to be honest I'm no neuroscientist! :confused:
 

GNC

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Maybe dreams are like bad photocopies of reality, so that they resemble it but you can also see patterns and images that aren't in reality thanks to the poor facsimile?
 

Cloudbusting

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Maybe dreams are like bad photocopies of reality, so that they resemble it but you can also see patterns and images that aren't in reality thanks to the poor facsimile?

That description reminds me of the google AI deep 'dream' images. I once had a dream where I was a snowman flying/walking through the air a la the snowman. Not complaining though, it was pretty immense and I woke up before I melted so that was a bonus. :D
 

Analogue Boy

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I think dreams are a way of processing the day’s information in a symbolic form. In the case of a life or death situation, the brain would scan through visual prompts based on these symbolic cues as instinct rather than going through a laborious list of instructions. The brain is mostly concerned with survival rather than entertainment.
 

escargot

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Here's a BBC R4 series about dreaming. Looks good.
We're on the second episode and the first is also available.

Dreaming

The blurb -

Imagine waking up and finding you're paralysed. Unable to move. Dark, shadowy figures enter your room, demonic images press against your face. You open your mouth to scream but you can't make a sound. A heavy pressure bears down on you. You feel like you're suffocating. The more you panic, the longer it lasts.

Welcome to the terrifying world of sleep paralysis - just one of the sleep disorders experienced by patients of neurologist, Dr Guy Leschziner, from Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London.

In this programme, he explores this and other medical conditions that affect normal dreaming and assesses what they tell us about the brain and its control of our sleep.

Dreaming usually occurs in REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep) when our brains are very active, but our bodies are not. A switch in the brain paralyses almost all our muscles, to stop us hurting ourselves. But sometimes this switch is faulty, causing sleep disorders that can significantly impact daily life.

We meet Evelyn who experiences sleep paralysis and horrific hallucinations. Christian describes his narcolepsy, a rare brain condition that makes him suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times - including when driving a forklift truck.

Adrian recounts his experience of cataplexy, a sleep disorder that can happen during the day and means he suddenly loses control of his muscles. And we hear from John who has REM sleep behaviour disorder (known as RBD) which causes him to act out his dreams, kicking and thrashing in his sleep. Sometimes injuring himself and his wife, Liz.

And we learn how RBD may be an early warning of degenerative brain conditions like Parkinson's disease and certain types of dementia.
 

GNC

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Thanks very much for this - it's very interesting. Like how we can learn more about sleep when things go wrong with it, for instance. That bloke booting his wife because he thought she was a tiger - good grief! But it's also revealing of how much we don't know. There doesn't seem to be a consensus (apart from sleep paralysis nightmares aren't evil spirits).
 

Bad Bungle

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I don't know what dreams are, so I don't know if this is the correct thread for posting a fascinating study on spontaneous visual hallucinations in blind people (Brain Jan 2021). The brain activities of sufferers of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) were measured as they described the hallucinations as they happened. Movies based on the verbal descriptions were shown to sighted subjects, whilst a second group who had lost their sight but did not have visual hallucinations, were asked to imagine similar visual images in their Mind's eye. All three groups under the scanners had excitation in the same part of the visual areas of the brain, but the timing of the neural activity was different. The sighted and non CBS group both responded to visual imput or verbal instructions, whereas the neural activity in the the first group occured unprompted and at random. As the visual centres of the brain in CBS sufferers do not process outside stimuli (because they are blind), they must be activated spontaneously. I have long been interested by the origin of dreams experienced by blind people (substitute visually-impaired throughout if it caused offence)

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/jan/how-blind-people-can-have-visual-hallucinations
 

charliebrown

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I had a kind and sweet cousin who died from natural causes.

She would tell me that when she slept, she had a reoccurring dream of being Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt.

In fact she had this dream so many times, that she really thought this queen was reborn in her.

This brings up the question of reincarnation.

The were a few times I had that feeling that I had a past life.
 

EnolaGaia

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Newly published research (in press) succeeded in establishing real time interactions with lucid dreamers in a lab setting. The full report is accessible at the link below.
Scientists Found a Way to Communicate With People Who Are Asleep And Dreaming

Scientists have identified a new phenomenon they describe as "interactive dreaming", where people experiencing deep sleep and lucid dreams are able to follow instructions, answer simple yes-or-no questions, and even solve basic mathematics problems.

As well as adding a whole new level of understanding to what happens to our brains when we're dreaming, the new study could eventually teach us how to train our dreams – to help us towards a particular goal, for example, or to treat a particular mental health problem.

There's plenty about the psychology of sleep that remains a mystery, including the rapid eye movement (REM) stage where dreams usually occur. Being able to get responses from sleepers in real time, rather than relying on reports afterwards, could be hugely useful.

"We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication," says psychologist Ken Paller from Northwestern University. "We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers.

"Most people might predict that this would not be possible – that people would either wake up when asked a question or fail to answer, and certainly not comprehend a question without misconstruing it." ...

During the deepest stages of sleep, as monitored by electroencephalogram (EEG) instruments, scientists interacted with the study participants through spoken audio, flashing lights, and physical touch: the sleepers were asked to answer simple maths questions, to count light flashes or physical touches, and to respond to basic yes or no questions (like "can you speak Spanish?").

Answers were given through eye movements or facial muscle movements agreed in advance. Across 57 sleep sessions, at least one correct response to a query was observed in 47 percent of the sessions where lucid dreaming was confirmed by the participant. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/people...even-do-math-problems-when-asleep-study-shows

PUBLISHED REPORT (In Press):
Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during REM sleep
Karen R. Konkoly, Kristoffer Appel, Emma Chabani, Delphine Oudiette, Martin Dresler, Ken A. Paller, et al.
Current Biology
Published:February 18, 2021
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.01.026

FULL REPORT: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(21)00059-2
 

brownmane

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Though the article doesn’t go into depth as to how the participants underwent training to respond to questions or stimuli with specific facial or eye movements, it does remind me of how someone can learn to engage in lucid dreaming.

One of the techniques to recognize that you are dreaming is to set up a specific task to do such as checking your wrist for the time (if you wear a watch). You do this task several times a day and ask “Am I dreaming?” In reality, you can easily read the time; however in the dream state, the numbers are usually mixed up. If you do this routinely and also prompt yourself to do this before going to sleep, eventually you will do this in your dream state. Because the watch doesn’t appear to you correctly, you know that you are dreaming and can proceed into lucid dreaming. So I can actually understand how researchers have taken this a step further to train the subjects to respond to external stimuli. It’s very interesting.
 

charliebrown

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Usually people dream in REM stage, and I think the brain makes you forget your dreams so you will not “ freak out “.

I usually do not remember my dreams and then there are nightmares that I wish I never had and would love to forget.

How many of you guys remember your dreams ?
 

EnolaGaia

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Usually people dream in REM stage, and I think the brain makes you forget your dreams so you will not “ freak out “.
I usually do not remember my dreams and then there are nightmares that I wish I never had and would love to forget.
How many of you guys remember your dreams ?

Folks have remembered enough dreams to populate many threads here on the forum. Here are some of the catch-all / compendium threads for reporting dreams:

What Did You Dream Of Last Night?
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/what-did-you-dream-of-last-night.59497/

Dream thread II
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/dream-thread-ii.30422/

Compendium of Dreams (1)
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/compendium-of-dreams-1.270/
 

ramonmercado

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I think this fits here. Searching for telepathy, Hans Berger discovered brainwaves.

A brush with death led Hans Berger to invent a machine that could eavesdrop on the brain.

In 1893, when he was 19, Berger fell off his horse during maneuvers training with the German military and was nearly trampled. On that same day, his sister, far away, got a bad feeling about Hans. She talked her father into sending a telegram asking if everything was all right.

To young Berger, this eerie timing was no coincidence: It was a case of “spontaneous telepathy,” he later wrote. Hans was convinced that he had transmitted his thoughts of mortal fear to his sister — somehow.

So he decided to study psychiatry, beginning a quest to uncover how thoughts could travel between people. Chasing after a scientific basis for telepathy was a dead end, of course. But in the attempt, Berger ended up making a key contribution to modern medicine and science: He invented the electroencephalogram, or EEG, a device that could read the brain’s electrical activity.

Berger’s machine, first used successfully in 1924, produced a readout of squiggles that represented the electricity created by collections of firing nerve cells in the brain. ...

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/hans-berger-telepathy-neuroscience-brain-eeg
 

charliebrown

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If I remember a dream, I say to myself how could my brain produce such a bizarre sequence of events.

Does my id tell me I am really evil and twisted ?
 

Bad Bungle

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So many posts on dreams. An article today in the D.Telegraph entitled 'Pre-birth dreams prepare animals for life'. Example used: "when a deer is born it has its eyes open, a full coat of fur and can stand up in just 10 minutes. Later that day, it will take its first, wobbly steps. How deer – and most other mammals – understand what they see and are able to navigate the world so soon after entering into existence has remained a mystery". Findings published in Science on mice (mammals but not deer) suggested waves of activity in the retinas of the rodents before their eyes open, were very similar to wave form circuits found in visual processing ie sight.
So, pre-natal dreaming could give you a head start in learning how to see before you even open youe eyes.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/07/22/dreaming-future-mammals-may-see-world-born/
 
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