The Dreaming Brain -or- Evolutionary Neuroscience of Dreaming

Memory and the Cognitive Neuroscience of Dreams

Having graduated in clinical psychology, more specifically "neuropsychology", I have always had an interest in the cognitive neuroscience of the dreaming brain, the mind-body problem, consciousness, attention and perception. While still a University student I had a hypnogogic dream in which the organic process by which memory operated was revealed to me. Nature as an engineer was far more advanced than any of the primitive tools humans had invented or the models of memory created until that point in history.

Neuroscientists are still trying to understand that singular miraculous engineering achievement of nature that we call memory. The role of dreaming as it relates to evolutionary neurosciences is still in its infancy and for the most part an unexplored territory. (Read "An Evolutionary Theory of Dreaming")

In an effort to try to reduce the frequency of "epileptic" seizures, physicians decided that cutting the "corpus callosum" might do the trick. Roger Sperry would create a paradigm shift in brain research that we popularly know as the "split-brain" experiments. Below is a dream of a young man who says he suffers from epilepsy, and is legally blind. During the dream he reports having a seizure as well as an anxiety attack. In the dream he says "tests" are being performed in a hospital "to see how my brain responded to things." Here is the dream; 

Stephan, 27 

A little about myself first.  I have epilepsy but have had my seizures under control for a while using meds. I am also legally blind. 

Last night i dreamt i had a seizure and was at a hospital i think Iowa City and was seeing a specialist.  When we went the front desk thy had a medicine blood level count done and it was extremely high i remember saying i don't understand since i take my meds only as directed then after that i remember feeling like i was strapped to a gurney and started to have another seizure. We got to another part of the hospital and we walked down some stairs to a small room at the bottom of the stairs that seemed like a really familiar place and the doctor was one i had seen before but not in real life just seemed familiar in the dream. 

After going into this room i set down in a chair and the doctor and two females i think were interns as he was instructing them set kind of bedside in front of me. Against the wall was a panel with all these lights and you know medical equipment and on the right wall was two television sets both tuned to the same channel and the volume was rather high.  Thinking to myself, i am like "what is going on".  Then i realized they were doing like environmental test on me to see how my brain responded to things that would be in my environment on a regular basis. They kept turning the tv up and it started to irritate me and i started to get like anxious like i was having an anxiety attack then one of the lights on the panel in front of me started to flash and an alarm went off i grabbed to tv remote and turned it down as i started to get paranoid after turning the tv down the alarm beeping slowed down along with my heart beat and i started to become more relaxed. 

The doctor and the two ladies left the room in a rush I thought they had went to reset the machine but only an intern came back in the room and i asked her what was wrong she kneeled down by me and looked at me. I remember thinking she was pretty. God it seemed so real....

Controlling Dreaming Brain Activity -or- Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) 

Controlling brain activity via a brain-computer interface may have still seemed science fiction fifty years ago, today it is reality, and the scary thing is that it really works. You state; "They kept turning the tv up and it started to irritate me and i started to get like anxious like i was having an anxiety attack then one of the lights on the panel in front of me started to flash and an alarm went off." The machine in your dream, is most likely used for "neurofeedback". In the dream you grab for the "TV remote" and "turned it down", you effectively are able to control the "sensory-motor" integration of your visual and audio input, as well as control your heart beat and relaxation response. 

The neuropsychological consequence "the alarm beeping slowed down along with your heart beat" and you "started to become more relaxed." Many memory and cognitive "first-person" sub-processes also seem to be active in your dream, you state; 

  • "I remember saying"
  • "I remember feeling"
  • "I remember thinking" 

Also interesting is the fact that the intern comes back in the room and looked at you, you remember thinking to yourself "she was pretty." This indicates that you must have been able to see her very well despite being legally blind. Hope is on the horizon for those with visual and auditory disabilities. Neuroprosthetics are no longer science fiction, but science fact. 


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.