Posted by: beagle4 | January 30, 2011

PBS.. My new best friend.

Thanks to the suggestion of Satira, I decided to watch this weekend “What are dreams?” a Nova PBS documentary available on instant streaming on Netflix.  If you have the time or are bored I recommend watching it. In addition to the documentary, the Nova website provides a good list of links, books, and articles discussing dreams. There is also a Q&A with Robert Stickgold, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School featured in the documentary, answering viewers’ questions about dreams at this link. During the documentary I took notes and have bulleted the key points of the movie:

  • Dreams may be the key to understanding the mind itself (used to understand human nature and what makes us tick)
  • During REM sleep our body is functionally paralyzed.
    • There is a brain disease called REM sleep disorder which prevents the paralysis. The person then acts out their dreams while they sleep.
    • Experiments conducted on cats can show what cats are dreaming about (usually just chasing/attacking mice)
  • According to Boston University, there is no technology that shows 100% that a person is dreaming. The only way to know for sure is to wake them up and ask.
  • There are 5 stages of sleep. During stage 1 the person enters a light sleep. During stages 3 and 4 the person enters a deep sleep (in this stage the brain waves have a large amplitude and small frequency). Then the cycle reverses itself (going from stage 4 to 1). Just before waking up you enter REM sleep. One full sleep cycle is about 90 minutes.

  • If you are awoken during non-REM sleep you have positive thoughts
  • If you are awoken during REM sleep you have negative thoughts. There is a shift in your mood.
    • This is traced to the amygdale in the brain which becomes highly activated during REM sleep. The amygdale specializes in handling unpleasant emotions, intense fear and anger, and aggression.
  • One scientist believes that the role of dreaming is to process memories. During non-REM dreams, the mind can refine and improve memory making it more useful for the future.
  • During non-REM the brain is taking the past and trying to figure out how that might relate to the future.
  • During REM the brain is actually trying to experience/move into the future. It is a simulation that allows us to face challenges and test possibilities. It gives us the ability to step into a future world with no risk. It allows us to reach our maximum potential and test scenarios.
  • Dreams help let us thing outside the box. The associations are less linear.
  • Dreams have won two Nobel prizes. (The periodic table was said to have first been thought up during a dream, as well as the design of the first sewing machine.)
  • From one experiment REM sleep increased the ability of creativity for word association 40% higher than before sleeping. (three words were provided, a fourth word had to be thought of that related all three of the words. 1 correct answer.)
  • Before drifting off to sleep, if you tell yourself “I want to dream about x” you can control what you are going to dream about. This skill can be achieved with practice.
  • One scientist believes that dreams are biologically programmed into the brain and are passed down from ancestors.
    • He explains the need of nightmares and bad dreams in order to prepare us for similar events in our lives. They are there to help us survive.
  • Some patents after having a stroke have lost the ability to dream. It’s not that they don’t remember them, they simply do not have them anymore.
    • This is due to parietal lobe damage
    • Patients keep on waking up during the middle of the night particularly at the time when REM sleep would occur.
  • To many cultures dreams have some central meaning. They have dream circles and the elders that draw on folklore to interpret the dreams.
  • Montreal dream lab uses statistics to assign numbers to dreams
    • They have a comprehensive database of dream lives
    • By looking at the frequency of negative dream thoughts about his partner by one man, they were not surprised when 5 years later the man and his wife divorced.
    • 20% of women and 1/7th of men have dreams about sexual activities that do not involve their current partner.
    • 33% of dreams involve unhappy events
  • Most dreams are a reflection of waking concerns. They reflect our emotional concerns with our social lives

It’s amazing how easy it is to take good notes on a documentary when you are not assigned questions to answer as part of a learning activity or when you are generally interested in the topic.

The REM sleep disorder seems like an interesting way to see what you are dreaming about. In the documentary they were able experiment with cats, so logically you would assume the same could be done to humans. It would have to be a controlled environment to protect you from injuring yourself. Just an idea.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

 

Thanks to the suggestion of Satira, I decided to watch this weekend “What are dreams?” a Nova PBS documentary available on instant streaming on Netflix.  If you have the time or are bored I recommend watching it. In addition to the documentary, the Nova website provides a good list of links, books, and articles discussing dreams. There is also a Q&A with Robert Stickgold, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School featured in the documentary, answering viewers’ questions about dreams at this link. During the documentary I took notes and have bulleted the key points of the movie:

· Dreams may be the key to understanding the mind itself (used to understand human nature and what makes us tick)

· During REM sleep our body is functionally paralyzed.

o There is a brain disease called REM sleep disorder which prevents the paralysis. The person then acts out their dreams while they sleep.

· According to Boston University, there is no technology that shows 100% that a person is dreaming. The only way to know for sure is to wake them up and ask.

· There are 5 stages of sleep. During stage 1 the person enters a light sleep. During stages 3 and 4 the person enters a deep sleep (in this stage the brain waves have a large amplitude and small frequency). Then the cycle reverses itself (going from stage 4 to 1). Just before waking up you enter REM sleep. One full sleep cycle is about 90 minutes.

· If you are awoken during non-REM sleep you have positive thoughts

· If you are awoken during REM sleep you have negative thoughts. There is a shift in your mood.

o This is traced to the amygdale in the brain which becomes highly activated during REM sleep. The amygdale specializes in handling unpleasant emotions, intense fear and anger, and aggression.

· One scientist believes that the role of dreaming is to process memories. During non-REM dreams, the mind can refine and improve memory making it more useful for the future.

· During non-REM the brain is taking the past and trying to figure out how that might relate to the future.

· During REM the brain is actually trying to experience/move into the future. It is a simulation that allows us to face challenges and test possibilities. It gives us the ability to step into a future world with no risk. It allows us to reach our maximum potential and test scenarios.

· Dreams help let us thing outside the box. The associations are less linear.

· Dreams have won two Nobel prizes. (The periodic table was said to have first been thought up during a dream, as well as the design of the first sewing machine.)

· From one experiment REM sleep increased the ability of creativity for word association 40% higher than before sleeping. (three words were provided, a fourth word had to be thought of that related all three of the words. 1 correct answer.)

· Before drifting off to sleep, if you tell yourself “I want to dream about x” you can control what you are going to dream about. This skill can be achieved with practice.

· One scientist believes that dreams are biologically programmed into the brain and are passed down from ancestors.

o He explains the need of nightmares and bad dreams in order to prepare us for similar events in our lives. They are there to help us survive.

· Some patents after having a stroke have lost the ability to dream. It’s not that they don’t remember them, they simply do not have them anymore.

o This is due to parietal lobe damage

o Patients keep on waking up during the middle of the night particularly at the time when REM sleep would occur.

· To many cultures dreams have some central meaning. They have dream circles and the elders draw on folklore to interpret the dreams.

· Montreal dream lab uses statistics to assign numbers to dreams

o They have a comprehensive database of dream lives

o By looking at the frequency of negative dream thoughts about his partner by one man, they were not surprised when 5 years later the man and his wife divorced.

o 20% of women and 1/7th of men have dreams about sexual activities that do not involve their current partner.

o 33% of dreams involve unhappy events

· Most dreams are a reflection of waking concerns. They reflect our emotional concerns with our social lives

It’s amazing how easy it is to take good notes on a documentary when you are not assigned questions to answer as part of a learning activity or when you are generally interested in the topic.

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