This is the conclusion from a News Piece written by Chelsea Whyte in the 15 April 2017 issue of the New Scientist. A new way to detect dreaming has confirmed that it doesn’t only occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and has shown why we don’t often remember our dreams.
Tore Nielsen at the University of Montreal says, “There is much more dreaming going on than we remember. It’s hour and hours of mental experience, and we remember a few minutes. Low-frequency brainwaves are detectable across the brain. Francesca Siclari and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that a decrease in these waves in an area at the back of the brain is a sign that someone is dreaming. She says, “This zone was a little bit more awake, showing high frequency brainwaves more common during wakefulness. This one region seems to be all that’s necessary for dreaming.”
Siclari and her team used EEG caps to map the brain activity of 32 people while they slept. They woke the sleeper when they showed various patterns of brainwave activity, and asked them if they had been dreaming. Some participants reported having dreams with a narrative structure, while others were more impressionistic. One had a dream about reporting a dream
There was such a strong correlation between dreaming and fewer low-frequency waves in the “Hot zone” that they could successfully predict whether a person was dreaming 91% of the time.
The team found that dreams during REM sleep were linked to a rise in high-frequency brainwaves in areas the are active in waking hours. The activity matched the brain areas that would have been active if the dreamers had been living our their dreams in real life. The team found that the participants dreamed during 71% of their non-REM sleep in addition to 95% of their REM sleep.
Many dreams are forgotten. Sometimes participants had a foggy idea that they had been dreaming, but couldn’t remember what about. In a further experiment the team found that being able to later remember a dream was linked to higher activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with memory, while dreaming. Siclari says, “The region for remembering the dream was different from the region having a dream.
So dreaming is very important for our brains. The previous posts on willpower have shown the importance of having adequate sleep for effective mental functioning. It seems like both education and employment typically employ schedules that hinder sufficient sleep. This issue needs serious public attention.
Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.4545
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