Monday, January 17

Do our dreams really have a deep meaning?


Since time immemorial, different human cultures and societies have tried decipher the meaning of dreams. Both to interpret present situations and to predict future events, dream images have been the subject of innumerable analyzes.

I remember what I dream very clearly, why is it?

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Science too, of course, takes a long time looking for answers for those questions. And, although there is still much to discover in the field of dreams, experts have formulated several hypotheses.

Today, there is a consensus that dreams are one of the ways in which the brain processes information that you receive while the person is awake. An amount of information that far exceeds what that person comes to realize, and that is made up of each piece of information and each stimulus that the brain perceives.

How dreams “clean” the brain

How is this data processing carried out? A study carried out by scientists from the Max Planck Institute, in Germany, reached revealing results in this regard. The work analyzed the brain activity during sleep in mice that had been anesthetized.

The researchers observed that the neocortex – the area of ​​the brain that controls the higher thinking: concentration, reflection, problem solving, etc. – is activated when the individual is dreaming. And that various parts of the hippocampus – another brain region – generate responses to this activity of the neocortex.

The hypothesis of the study authors is that all the information (memories) that the hippocampus had stored during wakefulness passes to the neocortex and this acts as if it were a filter: it decides what will remain in long-term memory and what will be forgotten.

The hippocampus, in turn, erases the information that it had stored during the day. In this way, it is “cleaned” and remains ready to re-accumulate information the next day. When someone sleeps less than adequate, this “cleaning” cannot be done correctly: this is one of the causes of problems derived from lack of sleep.

During this process, much information acquires a certain narrative structure and assumes the shape of the dream. Sometimes these dreams are remembered – especially when the person wakes up many times during the night – but in most cases they are easily forgotten.

The information we receive and how it appears in dreams

Dreams, according to this hypothesis, have as their raw material the information, data and stimuli that the brain has received during the day. How is it then that we sometimes dream of people, places or events of the past, very far back in time, that have nothing to do with current life?

The explanation would be given by the fact that, at some point of the day, the brain perceived some element that, unconsciously, connected it with that memory and “made it appear” later in the dream. And that would be, in any case, the “meaning” that could be found in the dream.

From these ideas is derived what in colloquial terms is known as garbage disposal theory. That is, the conviction that dreams only serve to get rid of unnecessary information.

This was a very accepted trend in the last two decades of the 20th century, especially since in 1983 the British neuroscientist Francis Crick (winner of the Nobel Prize for his discoveries related to DNA) affirmed that “we dream to forgetThe world of dreams, however, does not seem to limit itself to that function.

Dreams as a “threat simulation”

Two decades ago, Finnish neuroscientist Antti Revonsuo posited the so-called threat simulation theory. He affirms that dreams have a biological and evolutionary function: the simulation of threatening situations, which would facilitate the person to rehearse possible responses and be prepared for when that danger appears in real life.

In accordance with this hypothesis, there is a mechanism that selects the threatening situations of wakefulness and plays in dreams over and over again, in different combinations, and this “would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of the abilities that allow to overcome the dangers” during human evolutionary history.

This would explain, among other things, recurring dreams, nightmares and post-traumatic dreams. Numerous studies endorse this proposal, although these works always face a limitation: as the Argentine writer highlighted at the time Jorge Luis Borges, we can’t examine dreamsbut only the memory of dreams. And that memory may not respond exactly to what was dreamed of.

In any case, the meaning of those dreams could be related to something that the person lives as a threat or a fear. For example, nightmarish dreams in which the person has an exam and discovers that he has not studied anything could speak of a fear of not meeting the times in other obligations.

Problems and wishes manifested in dreams

In a similar vein, some works suggest that dreams allude to problems that must be solved, and that they could even help its resolution. In a experiment Conducted in the United States in 2010, two groups of people were taught a task and asked to perform it five hours after initial learning.

The members of one of the groups took a nap between the first and second part of the activity. And they did better in the second half than those who did not sleep. Above all, it was better for those who, in addition to sleeping, they dreamed of what they had learned. That is to say: dreaming of a skill could improve it.

By the way, the dream world can also help creativity. And writing dreams as soon as you wake up serves as a tool. Great artistic creations had their origin in dreams, such as the song ‘Yesterday’, by the Beatles, or the novel ‘The strange case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde’, by Robert L. Stevenson.

And one more way many dreams can be interpreted is as manifestations of wishes. At this point – regardless of how outdated or discredited some of his ideas may be – researchers accept the proposal of Sigmund Freud, author of the famous ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, published in 1900.

If someone dreams that they are in another country or with a particular person, it is probably because they want to be in that place or with that person. The same when dreaming of abilities that are not possessed, such as swimming, driving a car, or speaking another language. And sex dreams, yes, they tend to stem from sexual desire.

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