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Thread: Memory, Reality, and Dreaming.

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    Virtuoso Intellectual Pirate's Avatar
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    Default Memory, Reality, and Dreaming.

    Hello All,

    What is memory? In discussions elsewhere, Iíve referred to memory as the network of data we mentally accumulate and rely on to navigate conscious reality. The evidence in brain evolution suggests that memory evolved as a means to sustain and service the conscious physical/material survival needs of ancestral animals. I concluded as much after considerable research on how the dreaming brain likely evolved. Although we may remember our dreams and we seem to think better after having dreamed, memory is not an evolved function of dreaming or the dreaming brain. While most brain areas are active, I learned that a significant memory-associated area does not become as active amid dreaming as we find when the brain is otherwise aroused and awake.

    My musing here on memory, reality and dreaming is inspired by my efforts to understand directed dream content better. Directed dream content is an effort to influence the focus of dream content towards a desired outcome or resolution. Instead of a type of sleep process, dreaming appears to be an a altered state of consciousness amid this process. Essentially, dreaming appears to be another way we think about the concerns or influences that continue to resonate in our mind as we sleep. Although some of you may not consider this aspect of our psychology particularly compelling, understanding how to direct dream content may have enormous potential for problem-solving and personal enrichment.

    As I have learned, memory evolved after the brain gained the capacity to integrate diverse sensory information. At the level of interbrain evolution, ancestral animals gained the ability to merge visual and tactile forms of sensory perceptions, which gave them the ability to override certain instinctual behaviors. By overriding their instincts, these ancient animals could mediate their behaviors and energy expenditure more efficiently and effectively. Because memory evolved from and arises through conscious sensory influences and perceptions, the brain area (prefrontal) associated with assessing and promoting memory of experiences consequential to physical/material reality does not become active while the brain is dreaming. Real physical/material (aural and tactile) sensory has to be actually experienced by the brain through its physical sensory array for the prefrontal to become active. This is important to the distinction of what causes dreaming because this experience does not seem to involve the full architecture or network of the brain that is associated with assessing and navigating physical/material experience.

    When we dream, deactivations in the midbrain disrupt the flow of aural and tactile data to our brain from our environment. This disruption produces a slightly different picture of how our brain appears to work when it is active and engaged in a cognitive function. Indeed, dreaming is a cognitive function arising from vestigial aspects of the sleep process produced by the brainstem. Instead of being aroused and activated by direct sensory data like the waking brain, the dreaming brain appears to be activated by data from the brainstem in the absence of full access to physical/material sensory data. This distinction suggests that physical/material experience does not shape the cognitive process enveloping dreaming.

    If dreaming is another way our brain perceives and think, then that perception and thought process does not appear to be fully associated with the physical/material aspect of our conscious experiences and memories. Yes, our dreams appear to have physical content and often seem to involve recent or past memories; nevertheless, the evidence in brain function suggests that these dreams are inspired by some transcendent or intangible aspect of our physical experience and memories.

    I have surmised dreams as encompassing our mental experience, which is essentially a non-physical reality. However, everything thatís affects us mentally doesnít necessarily invade our dream content; i.e., our dreams are not always about what weighs most on our mind. So the questions this raises are why and how do we get our dreams to focus consistently on resolving the issues that persist in our waking mind? Keep in mind that focused dream content could have considerable impact on our conscious experience.

    Undoubtedly, weíve all had or heard tell of some extraordinary, unexplainable dream experience or outcome of that experience. If we could consistently cultivate and harvest those experiences, one could effectively imagine the innovation, revelation, or potential accomplishment available to our conscious interests. There are methods that appear to focus dream content but they do not always render consistent results. It is as though the dreaming brain is a separate entity that has to be cajoled into considering a conscious focus of concern. Indeed, the dreaming brain appears to be activated by parts of the brainstem more recent in its evolution than the part that arouses our conscious brain function--a kind of functional schizophrenia. So the further question becomes, what or who is this other person we become when we dream? Clearly, that person is us but not the us we consciously know.

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    Virtuoso Intellectual Pirate's Avatar
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    As a continuation, awake and aroused our brain is awashed in the sensory experiences of physical reality. Our mental network of perception, thought, and memory is aroused and linked by physical/material experience when we are awake. This is not true when we dream.

    When we dream, our navigational cognitive network is aroused and linked by cues from the brainstem. Specifically, hypothalamic activity seems to be the likely source given its association with sleep mediation. The hypothalamus is also the seat of our instinctual drives, from hunger to sex to survival. Therefore, the content of our dreams should primarily encompass some aspect of these instinctual drives. But this is also not entirely true. Our dream content does not always encompass our instinctual interests. What our dreams likely envelope is not our direct instinctual drives but rather the mental effects of those drives. So the question becomes how do our drives influence the cognitive process that dreaming suggests? Something I shall ponder a bit further.

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