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When we are dreaming, why do we think it is real?


neonsignal
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When we are dreaming, why do we think it is real?

 

It is so different to daydreaming, where we think about imaginary scenarios, but are aware that it is hypothetical. When we are asleep and dreaming, is our assumption of reality because of the suppression of our ability to differentiate between the real and the imaginary? How do we differentiate?

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It's exactly the same "machinery" used when we are conscious as when we are dreaming. The parts of your brain which are active when you are awake and conscious are also active when dreaming. The only difference is that... while dreaming... there is an additional mechanism which paralyzes your body so you don't hurt yourself by moving about.

 

NOVA did a good special on this, and just re-aired it a week or two ago. You can read more at the following if interested:

 

Read More: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/dreams/

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It's exactly the same "machinery" used when we are conscious as when we are dreaming.

 

So what makes us believe it is real (during the time we are dreaming)? Even real physiological responses to what we are 'imagining'. What is it about consciousness that enables us to distinguish between what is observed and what is imagined?

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you don't always think its real

 

Yes, that's true; on rare occasions I have had lucid dreams. That makes it more interesting. It implies that the function of distinguishing external reality from internal rehearsal is in some way a separate (and suppressable) process.

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As iNow stated, our brains use the same machinery during dreaming as it does when we're awake.

When we're awake, our brain produces a coherent reality based in information it is givin about it's surroundings from our senses. The brain is constantly updated with new information about what's happening.

For example, if you see something whilst you're awake, nerve impulses travel to the occipital lobe from the eyes via the optic nerve, then via the limbic system to the rest of the brain (temporal, parietal are involved in some of the processing and frontal usually deals with judgement etc) This activity is generally what we experience as consciousness.

When you are dreaming, it's pretty much the same story except information about reality is not coming (For the most part) from the eye and optic nerve. the information is coming from our own memory. consequently, when you're dreaming it seems real.

 

Studies have been done to see what differences there are between conscious and unconscious brain activity. The results sugest that there realy isn't any significant difference.

 

To put it another way, you are always dreaming. But when you're awake you brain is acting on different; more accurate information.

 

I'll see if I can find links to the research I've been reading and post them up on here.

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Studies have been done to see what differences there are between conscious and unconscious brain activity. The results suggest that there really isn't any significant difference.

 

So that says that the assumption of reality is the normal state (waking or dreaming). The interesting case then becomes imagination ('daydreaming'), in which we are able to play out a scenario and still retain at least some level of alertness to external stimuli.

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Studies have been done to see what differences there are between conscious and unconscious brain activity. The results suggest that there really isn't any significant difference.

So that says that the assumption of reality is the normal state (waking or dreaming). The interesting case then becomes imagination ('daydreaming'), in which we are able to play out a scenario and still retain at least some level of alertness to external stimuli.

 

Or when you lucid dream. By far better than day dreaming. Imo.

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"The assumption of reality is the normal state"

 

That's pretty much it. It's worth remembering that there is no clear definition of 'awake' and 'asleep'. There's a lot of middle ground. Something stage hypnotists are able to take advantage of in their shows, whereby they alter the participant's perception of reality.

Someone you might want to look up is Derren Brown, he uses this quirk of consciousness to great effect as he is expert in it's psychology.

As for daydreaming, if you're relaxed enough and daydreaming enough and have someone or something to influence you; your perception will be altered to some degree.

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"Q: Hi, I am 60 years old, and I have had hundreds of lucid dreams over the last 30 years. Often I transition into a lucid dream from an "ordinary" dream. Does your theory incorporate lucid dreams and attempt to account for their occurrence?

Francis Louis Szot, Boca Raton, Florida

 

A: We don't know how to incorporate lucid dreaming into our models. Lucid dreaming, which involves being aware of the fact that you're dreaming while you dream, appears to be a state between REM sleep and waking. Regions of the prefrontal cortex, which control logical reasoning and executive decision-making and which are normally turned off during REM sleep, appear to be turned back on. This allows some lucid dreamers to gain partial control over the events in their dreams. But whether this would actually impair the normally automatic processing of memories, or instead allow the dreamer to control the memories to be processed is totally unknown. Check back in five years!"

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/dreams/ask.html

 

i have had more than a few lucid dreams and i have noticed that there are just some parts of the dream i cant acess. such as i may have had a dream about a room and what i did in the room, but when lucidity kicks in i tried to open the door, but i couldn't and was just reset back to the previous event to me opening the door.

 

its kind of interesting that we have conciousness during sleep, i would think that we may with a lot of research be able to use the time spent in sleep gathering information. from like reading a book or something. i mean reality is simple just what data points we currently see/hear/feel/touch so i would imagine that during sleep when you know your sleeping you could inject your own data points for whatever you want.

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It's exactly the same "machinery" used when we are conscious as when we are dreaming. The parts of your brain which are active when you are awake and conscious are also active when dreaming. The only difference is that... while dreaming... there is an additional mechanism which paralyzes your body so you don't hurt yourself by moving about.

 

The sort of gestalt interflow of neural activity we see during consciousness does not occur during dreams. Cortical activity breaks down and seems to happen at a "lower level" where the various regions of the neocortex aren't able to talk to each other at once.

 

I haven't seen that special but they do talk about the relationship between dreams and memory. Dreaming is when the contents of the hippocampus, a sort of short term memory buffer, are replayed and propagate down our neocortical hierarchy, effectively programming our novel waking experiences into long term memory.

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Indeed, but in addition to the hippocampal and amydalal activation, the cortical areas (temporal, parietal, prefrontal, occipital, etc.) are also being activated, which was the point I was trying to convey. The neocortex is active in very similar ways when awake as when dreaming. I imagine our knowledge has greatly advanced on this topic since I studied it a dozen years ago though, so I welcome any corrections you would be willing to share when needed. :D

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As iNow stated, our brains use the same machinery during dreaming as it does when we're awake.

When we're awake, our brain produces a coherent reality based in information it is givin about it's surroundings from our senses. The brain is constantly updated with new information about what's happening.I]

 

Perfectly put, when we fall asleep, the part of our brain that forces reality and conformity shuts down. We are left defenseless to our brains' "secondary" interpretation of reality. Our brain is so complicated, we may never fully understand it.

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