Academic journal article The Journal of Mind and Behavior

Conscious States of Dreaming

Academic journal article The Journal of Mind and Behavior

Conscious States of Dreaming

Article excerpt

People are not simply conscious (awake) or not conscious (unconscious or asleep) [although they may be] but rather there are differing qualities and degrees of consciousness - such as dreaming - implicit in the cogni- tive frameworks with which people negotiate the experience of their worlds. So-called "lucid" dreamers, for example, are able to think clearly, to act or reflect whilst experiencing dreaming (LaBerge, 1990). The complexity of conscious and unconscious experience makes the consideration of quantum states a useful metaphor for understanding the interaction of sleeping, dreaming, and memory. Although dreams are likely to be the product of schema assimilation (and remembered dreams as if of recollected events experienced in consciousness) during sleep, the purpose of human dreams remains as elusive as the dream episodes themselves. Recognition of dream- ing states involves the semi-conscious recollection of memory trace during the sleep consolidation-based stabilisation phase, as such dreaming might be considered a by-product of schema assimilation. Sleep is thus necessary for the consolidation-based enhancement of motor sequence learning (Doyon, Carrier, Simard, Tahar, Morin, Benali, and Ungerleider, 2005, p. 68).

Early research from Jenkins and Dallenbach (1924) indicated that the strength oí a memory representation or "trace" could be more preserved by periods of sleep compared with time awake. This is because sensory processing during sleep is diminished compared to in an awakened state, whereas activity of memory processes may not be so, so more consolidation of memory can take place. Moruzzi and Magoun argued in 1949 that the function of sleep was to reinstate the activity of synapses, or to regulate brain processing. If so then memory of dreams involves both anterograde (future orientated) and retrograde (past-orientated) memory, as a remembered dream sequence involves recollection in the present of a future-orientated past physiological experience.

There are two main states of activity during sleep which are both natural cycles - REM sleep (rapid eye-movement sleep) and NREM sleep (non rapid-eye movement sleep). Typically NREM sleep is followed by a short period of REM sleep and dreaming occurs during the REM stage. Learning through habitual actions during consciousness are REM independent but as Greenberg and Pearlman (1974) put it, ". . . activities involving assimilation of unusual information require REM sleep for optimal consolidation" (p. 516). REM sleep is also that which is inductive to memory of dreams upon awakening. As Siegeal (2005) observes, although dreams contain emotions and events that don't correspond to previous days, dreams are not recalled unless they are immediately rehearsed in post-dream waking (p. 82). A person who awakes after the REM sleep cycle is more likely to remember her dreams than one who wakes after a NREM stage of sleep.

A definition from the second wave of sleep research, provided by Wamsley and Stickgold (2010), holds that, "[djuring sleep, when attention to sensory input is at a minimum, the mind continues to process information, using memory fragments to create images, thoughts, and narratives that we commonly call 'dreaming'" (R1010). As such, dreams may be "spandrels of sleep" (Flanagan, 1995). The spandral, while an epiphenomenal term, also instaiatiates a complex neurological interaction. As Hahn, McFarland, Berberich, Sakmann, and Mehta (2012) suggested, the entorhinal cortex layer III is a mediator for memory consolidation during slow-wave sleep and it "inputs to the hippocampus in temporal association memory" (Suh, Rivest, Nakashiba, Tominaga, and Tonegawa, 2011, p. 1415). Furthermore, Nieuwenhuys, Voogt, and van Huijzen (2008) showed that the parahippocampal cortex, which receives diverse sensory-specific and multimodal cortical information (a highly complex area of synaptic functioning) is also useful for REM sleep (see also Markowitsch and Staniloiu, 2013, p. …

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