By: Davine Holness
Dreams are among the most common parts of our human experience, yet no one seems to understand them. Dreams seem real and vivid while we’re in them, yet we usually forget them throughout the course of the day. Dreams have mystified scientists and philosophers alike throughout the ages, but as we have gained knowledge on how the brain works, some viable theories have been put forth.
- To practice what we would do in certain circumstances. Based on the parts of the brain that are increasingly activated during REM sleep, cognitive scientist Antti Revonsuo claims that sleep is a way of rehearsing fight-or-flight responses so that we are better at them when we are threatened in real life.
- To organize our memories. Matt Wilson at MIT’s Center for Learning and Memory, after noting from the firing of neurons that lab rats dream of important junctures during their day, claims that dreams are a way to decide which memories are worth storing.
- To defragment our hard drive. Over time our brains can get into the habit of thinking in certain ways that might be holding us back, such as defensiveness or obsessing. According to geneticist Francis Crick, dreams, during which neurons fire randomly, give us an opportunity to loosen certain pathways and make new, useful ones.
- For emotional learning. Ernest Hartmann, a doctor at Tufts, says that dreams let us put difficult emotions into pictures and confront them in a safe environment, away from the defensiveness of the conscious mind.
- Random firing of neurons. Some claim that dreams have no meaning or purpose at all. Dreams may just be the mind functioning as it always does, but free from the consciousness that seeks meaning in the madness.
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Simons, I. (2009, November 11). What Do Dreams Do for Us?. . Retrieved June 3, 2014