What is dreaming in a neurological perspective? Dreaming is an indispensable function of the human brain. Without sleep and probably dreams there are no healthy brain. This is not an opinion. This is scientific evidence.
The dreams consist of vivid colors, face, objects, views, movements, and even smells, tastes, sounds and other sensory inputs, rarely pain, sounds, realistic sexual experiences, frightening images. Of course, that is not reality: it is what a dream is. In dreams there are only glimpses of consciousness of this fantastic world. For a short moment the individual believes that the dream is true reality. Studies showed that dreams reflect our real interests, personality and also worries or other negative or positive feelings. Thus dreaming is rather an alternative reality, a reality that is independent from our will (we do not control our actions in dreams). This alternative reality of dreams is often permeated with high emotional content, once again, without no control. Memories of dreams vanish fast as dreaming is disconnected from the normal episodic memory process of the awakened brain. Only fragments remain after being awake few minutes. Hence, during the REM sleep (the sleep phase where we dream the most), there is a great activation of the cortex of the limbic lobes (the ones of emotional and episodic autobiographical memory processes). ON the contrary, there is a deactivation of the frontal cortex (especially the dorsolateral areas, the ones involved in free will, logic thinking, analysis of the real, and voluntary recollection or recognition of memories). In the frontal lobe system only mesolimbic and mesocortical dopaminergic pathways are active for dreaming (the one connected with the emotional areas or the limbic lobe).
Despite some visual imagery inputs might arise fortuitously during sleep, during dreaming the brain incorporates them in a story, a true narration with personal emotional content and autobiographic memories. Thus, dreams do not correspond simply to a casual or erratic function of the brain. As dreaming is a function of the human brain, dreams should convey an evolutionary advantage on the fitness of the human genre and species’ reproduction.
The hypothetical functions (in the evolutionary and neurological perspectives) of the dreams are: regulation (homeostasis) and improvement of the individual emotional processes (as a sort of psychotherapy in a safe environment), defining strategies to cope with past or future adverse events (trauma and loss), consolidation of episodic or autobiographic memories (without the confounding effects of the awakened brain) to understand better what is going on, enhancement of creativity and new ideas, facilitate learning, fulfillment of repressed wishes (according to Freud’s theories), cutting and eliminating noises or disturbing inputs (as the computer does by cleaning the hard disk during maintenance automated tasks) to prepare for the future. In conclusion I would like to say that we probably are what we dream. My wife says that her dreams are premonitions and divinatory but, until now, she did not give any useful lottery number.
In neurologicsl congresses there are usually few presentation about dreams.
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