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(Scientific American)   Why do we dream? Here comes the science   ( sciam.com) divider line
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26337 clicks; posted to Main » on 04 Oct 2004 at 9:10 AM (13 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2004-10-04 10:09:39 AM  
OK, here goes.


The connectionist theory says that everything is stored in the connections between brain cells, not the cells themselves. Each cell can be connected to myriad other cells, so the number of connections is magnitudes larger than the number of cells in the brain.

There are protiens or something in the connections, so the more or less of a specific protein, the more or less is stored in that connection.

You can model this with a large matrix of "cells". And another matrix that stores the connections between cells. So, a cell at position 1,1 may be connected to the cell at 5,5. In that connection, you store a number, the number of "things" that this connection has learned.

The things that you teach the program are generally patterns. Imagine ASCII porn.

Part of the program was to write a "recognition" algortithm, so you can enter part of a pattern, and the "brain" would bring back the entire pattern. Sometimes, if patters were similar, it may bring back the wrong one, which was kind of like your grandmother's memory :)

The fascinating part was the dreaming. As it optimized stuff, you would literally see strange images like a woman with horse legs or something (these were not detailed pattterns, mind you).

The problem I had with the program was that it was that the optimization routine (which the prof called sleeping) was completely based on conjecture. I was never sure if the model needed tweaking, and this merely had the side effect of modelling tiredness, sleeping and dreaming, or whether it was based on a theory which was backed by somehing.

Time may tell.
2004-10-04 10:11:17 AM  
Why all the scientist bashing? Don't you realize that we really know nothing, we just have a bunch of models of what we think happens. It's all about finding different ways to look at something, not finding answers.
2004-10-04 10:11:27 AM  
What does it mean when you dream about the end of the world in various ways? I've watched nuclear bombs go off in perfect detail, regular bombs just carpetbombing the area, and so on.

Been there, done that. Too much subconscious 'fall-out' from movies like Dr. Stangelove and Fail Safe and Terminator 1, 2, 3.

Also, whats this about flying dreams? Never had one, only falling, but I don't mind those at all.

The falling dream was also one of my common ones in younger years, and a bit disturbing because I always felt myself actively trying to wake up and couldn't for a few moments. Felt like if I didn't wake up before the falling ended, I wouldn't wake up at all. A true visceral feeling of plummeting.
2004-10-04 10:13:21 AM  
"Noone wants to hear what you dreamt about unless you dreamt about them."

2004-10-04 10:13:43 AM  
Q: Why do we dream?
A: Breasts.
2004-10-04 10:21:41 AM  
"Noone wants to hear what you dreamt about unless you dreamt about them."

Well, if someone dreamt about breasts and could relate things in a manner that his/her audience could vicariously experience, I, for one, would welcome are loquacious somna-cinematic overlords.
2004-10-04 10:21:47 AM  
penis. huh huh. vagina.
2004-10-04 10:24:15 AM  
Who is this Mr. Noone and what does he dream about?
2004-10-04 10:26:20 AM  
Ok, a fine article on simple dreaming. But what about lucid dreams... like when I realize I'm dreming WHILE I'm dreaming and then am able to do whatever I want to just by thinking about it. And what about the times I've dreamed things that eventually happened? Where's THAT article,huh? HUH??? (Foams at the mouth and runs away howling)
2004-10-04 10:26:26 AM  
I have bad dreams about taking a test and having to spell epiphenomenon.
2004-10-04 10:26:28 AM  
What would be the logical explanation for dreams that resemble bad avante garde surrealist Italian films?

"Marco, Marco! Why do you leave me here all alone with the Sad Clown of Life?!?"

Would those be the result of evolutionary forces? Did cave men have to deal with disturbing cubist imagery and "Un Chien Andlus?" Maybe saber-tooth tigers tried to flush paleolithic hunter-gatherers by playing Thelonius Monk and diplaying melting clocks? What does all of this neural theory have to say about completely inexplicable jumbles of images and moods?


I'm all for jobs programs and such, but maybe these scientists would be better employed figuring out how to design and manufacture an affordable reliable car, or something like that.
2004-10-04 10:28:37 AM  
canyoneer --
"I'm all for jobs programs and such, but maybe these scientists would be better employed figuring out how to design and manufacture an affordable reliable car, or something like that."

They accomplished that already, it's called a Honda.
2004-10-04 10:29:38 AM  
I've always been interested in dream theory. There's some amazing stuff that has to do mostly with neurophysiology and quantum physics. Check out LUCID DREAMER by Malcolm Godwin, a very interesting book (with some freat illustrations).

My dog dreams. House cats dream. What do you mean by intelligent?

Dogs and cats are rather intelligent animals. Just because they don't have opposable thumbs and spend all day talking on the phone doesn't mean they're not smaert.(sic)

Last night I had a dream that I was fighting Stormtroopers (been playing Star Wars: Battlefront all week) and I grabbed one by the feet and beat another one till his arms fell out.
2004-10-04 10:30:24 AM  
My dreams are usually zombie attack dreams.

The traditional trudging zombies or the new jet-propelled sprinting zombies?
2004-10-04 10:30:59 AM  
more, whamdangler. more. you can't say things like 'a woman with horse les' or whatever you said (it's early) and not explain more. like, thats not something you can throw into a conversation without a lot of explaining. am i right, people?
2004-10-04 10:32:26 AM  
Mr. Clarence Butterworth
hehe, i never was very good at that spacebar thingy.
2004-10-04 10:33:05 AM  
Dreaming is behavior modification testing. We dream to allow all of the "little conflicts" we pick up during the day to adjust and have a framework in your behavior. Dreaming allows you to have a sane life, and make the right choices by resolving things in your head while you're asleep.

Why do people tell you to sleep on a decision? Because the brain will go through all the scenarios when you sleep... and give you a more full answer when you wake.

I don't know why people think this is so hard to figure out. Every one of my dreams has a striking relation to what I was feeling during the day.

I hardly remember my dreams. When I do remember my dreams, I remember them from start to finish almost verbatim.

If I have had a conflict that day, it runs me through a whole bunch of new places with the same old conflict. If I feel inadequate that day, then all the dreams themes will, regardless of where I go, address the perceived inadequacy.

I might be at my mom's house feeling inadequate...
then I am on the bridge of a starship feeling inadequate...
or in Red Dawn feeling inadequate...
or at my old middle school feeling inadequate...

Either way, it's going to work out the feelings, and it is going to run me through a freaking blue million scenarios to do it.

Really, in essence, dreams for me are behavioral beta testing. Your mind just throws you in a million new places with the same feelings or conflicts you had during the day, and you just work it out one way or another. The more places you go, and the more interaction you have with the "players," the more you will work out what you need to work out. It's mental evolution. You get to say what you wanted to say, or do what you wanted to do, and you will figure out the outcome. There is no logic there but what you think logic is. It has rules, those are your rules. Dreams make no sense, but in essence they are just random testing to help you get an outcome that you can live with.

Here's an example: Ever just wanted to tell someone off? Just tell them to go to hell. I guarantee you that when you dreamed that night, you did. You did it in a million ways, with a million other people, in as many scenarios as you could. The brain lets you get it out. It allowed you to do it so the burning feeling of incompletion didn't boil you.

Then you wake up, and wonder why you don't want to tell that person off anymore... and still, you might wonder why you deftly handled the next interaction with that person.

Dreams are there for a reason. If you didn't have them, they would make you never get to resolve some things that you CAN NEVER RESOLVE in the real world. You would go mad. That is why sleep deprived people go insane. Their heads are swimming with things that they cannot resolve.

Dreams are there to make sure, next time, you either bite your tongue with that person, or you tell them off. The dream is just a testing phase to adjust your behavior and mediate internal conflicts.
2004-10-04 10:34:29 AM  
How about Julia Roberts? What? Oh, you said horse legs! Nevermind.
2004-10-04 10:35:26 AM  
Look up lucid dreaming.
Once you are able to recognize the fact that you are dreaming and don't automatically wake up, you're ready to start taking control of your dreams.

There are lots of tricks to learning how, but once you know, you can do it forever.

When in a state of lucid dreaming, you can do anything that comes to mind. Some people can actually hear the real, outside world around them.
2004-10-04 10:36:45 AM  
What about an insect who dreamt of being a man?

/surprised no one brought up The Fly yet.
2004-10-04 10:37:11 AM  
Not sure I buy off on lucid dreaming. The second I realize it's a dream and try to take control, I wake up.
2004-10-04 10:37:30 AM  
I sleep to dream and I dream to sleep.

/Never afraid of the dark
2004-10-04 10:37:53 AM  
I dream about stuff i think alot about. I constantly dream of my girlfriend, she seems to be in almost every dream i can remember O.o
2004-10-04 10:38:25 AM  
Here's an example: Ever just wanted to tell someone off? Just tell them to go to hell.

Yeah, but then I dream about having shoulda kept my mouth shut!
2004-10-04 10:39:54 AM  
Lucid dreaming totally works.

I do it nightly. It's a trick you learn that you won't forget.

Like riding a bike.

It can't be done if you go to bed drunk or stoned, usually, but it does work.
2004-10-04 10:42:14 AM  
How about the being naked in class dream?

Or the not being able to find the classroom on the day of a test dream?

Or the if-I-don't-get-to-class-I-won't-get-my-high-school-diploma-but-wait-I'​m-older- than-that-and-already-graduated-from-college dream?

All of them real stress-makers and hey, I thought this was supposed to rid me of anxiety kind of stuff!
2004-10-04 10:45:31 AM  

I find most of my dreams are like the ones you just mentioned. I often dream about frustrating situations that I should be able to easily accomplish, but can't (like getting dressed and getting to work on time)or about being back in school and unable to complete a paper or test.

No wonder I'm tired all the time...
2004-10-04 10:45:43 AM  
Lately, I've been thinking that dreams are just something to keep your brain occupied so that you don't wake up and ruin your sleep. Since you are being internally stimulated, the external stimulations, noises and such, aren't as salient and don't wake you up.

That's probably wrong. But if it were true, it would be funny as it pretty much means all the time spent in trying to analyze dream content was a waste.
2004-10-04 10:47:06 AM  
I used to be into dream theory and dream interpretation, probably because I always have such strange dreams. I usually remember them too. They are always very long with a lot of crazy stuff going on. For some reason I tend to dream about the grim reaper a lot. I also will re-enact movies in my dreams, but the strange thing is the movies I re-enact either don't exist or if they do I have never seen them.
2004-10-04 10:49:23 AM  
Lucid dreaming, for those times when masterbation needs a little more boost of "reality".
Lucid dreaming, fully interactive virtual reality for the mind.
2004-10-04 10:49:52 AM  
Why do we dream when our thoughts mean nothing?
And when will we learn to control?
I need sersnity.
2004-10-04 10:50:26 AM  
socodog is right about lucid dreaming. I remember reading about it in Omni magazine as a young lad. I'm usually able to manipulate a lucid dream state but only in an environment with background noise, ie leave the tv on and dose off or fall asleep on a commuter train.

On occassion when I "lose my grip on the dream" as I describe the process to myself, I can even hear and almost feel a membrane open/shut in my ear. It's really weird. It's as though there's a thin veil that separates noise from outside when you're really "asleep" yet in a lucid state it's not quite closed so some of the real world mixes with light dreams.
2004-10-04 10:50:50 AM  
What I really want to know is how do we chronologize our memories?
2004-10-04 10:51:08 AM  
*serenity even
2004-10-04 10:52:26 AM  
Omega Ohm: A friend of mine has a Willy's panel truck that is fifty years old, runs great, and will go places the most modern 4wd can't go. Another friend has a 1960 VW Beetle that has well over one million miles and has been to Costa Rica and back three times. Both are easy to fix with basic tools and get surprisingly good mileage.

Hondas are nice, but they don't make 'em like that any more. Maybe these egghead scientists can figure out why.

Oh, and last night I dreamt that the USA was not run by a bunch of greedy stupid dirtbags. It was a very pleasant dream.
2004-10-04 10:53:02 AM  
Couple things:

If you want to remember your dreams better, when you first wake up take a notebook and write down everything you can about the dream you just had. If you wait, it will fade. If you do this every morning, your ability to remember your dreams increases greatly.

I have read studies that suggest that anything you learn becomes more internalized after you sleep (in other words, if you train at someting all day, you will be better at it after you sleep, than right after you train, even though the material is "fresher".) So it is thought that dreaming, among a number of possible functions, internalizes, or reinforces learning somehow.

Also, if you have ever heard of Psycho-Cybernetics, dreaming could be connected to our built-in goal-striving mechanism. Among the ideas behind Psycho-Cybernetics (literally steering the mind) is the idea that before you go to sleep, you can program your goal-striving mechanism with a problem, and in the morning you can wake with the answer. Writers, in particular, seem to do this naturally. The quality of the problem or question determines the kind of answer you get back, so an unprogrammed wind would give funky, unclear results... like strange dreams. GIGO

I can hear all sorts of knee-jerk reactions to that last paragraph. Do yourself a favor and read about the ideas therein before writing those ideas off or calling me a looney. This would be far too long of a post, and a threadjack, if I were to explain all that.
2004-10-04 10:55:23 AM  
belhade: Do hawks dream of prairie dogs? Do Goldfinches dream of endless fields of tasty wild sunflower seeds? Do Northern Flickers dream of tasty grubs?

You don't know, do you?
2004-10-04 10:57:14 AM  
I read or heard or something somewhere that the reason we dream while sleeping is because it's the only time that we can do anything we desire without suffering the consequence of that action. We can jump off cliffs, fly like birds, rule vast kingdoms or make uninhibited love to Aunt Paddy with Aunt Selma watching lustily. And who's to say we're nuts.

Jack Sprat
2004-10-04 10:57:25 AM  

I know my dog dreams of licking his nuts (seen him do it in his sleep).
2004-10-04 11:07:21 AM  
Last night, I dreamt that a hamburger was eating me!
2004-10-04 11:09:32 AM  
Once you learn to dream lucidly, your control gets better and better with practice.

The first thing you should try is levitation. You might be able to just think "up" and float away. You might have to start out with a big jump. Eventually, you're doing things like instant transmission to where and when you want to be. You can be with who you want doing what you want given enough time.

I don't know why shrinks don't teach lucid dreaming to people with night terrors.

Remember, sleep is where you are a Viking.
2004-10-04 11:10:05 AM  
"Don't you have any dreams Peewee?"

"Well I have this one, but it's kinda' silly."

"Oh go on tell me..."

"Okay...I'm rolling a big donut at this snake wearing a vest"
2004-10-04 11:20:46 AM  
When I went on the booze cruise and lost my keys, I kept dreaming that I found them. Until the girl called and told me they were in her car. How they fell out of my pants in her car, that's a different story all together.
2004-10-04 11:25:15 AM  
I think dreams simply illustrate the brain's inability to distinguish consciousness from unconsciousness. It's like that descartes quote, something about something.

*twinkles fingers* woooooooo.
2004-10-04 11:25:32 AM  
I'm of the opinion that dreams are how we manipulate and file memories and things that we learned while we were awake.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000D8D03-2FE5-1E40-89E0809E​C588EEDF (Link)

That, and with no actual input, the brain gets bored pretty quickly, so it plays around with whatever's lying around, or, as the article suggests, tries to cope with traumatic experiences.

/always loves dreaming
2004-10-04 11:29:23 AM  
my dreams

[image from bobbybs.net too old to be available]
2004-10-04 11:30:44 AM  
my nightmares

[image from cheers-becker.de too old to be available]
2004-10-04 11:31:14 AM  
Sleep: The cure for sleepiness.
2004-10-04 11:40:24 AM  
socodog, it's like The Matrix, and lucid dreaming is being plugged-in. Those trippy moves, insanely fast fights, and even flying, are all possible in your lucid dreams.

BTW, yes, the lucid dreaming thing works great for nightmares. For those having zombie etc dreams... Next time before bed, tell yourself to kick their asses. :)
2004-10-04 11:47:39 AM  

too tired to rtfa...
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