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DreamsTheories attempting to explain the origin and functions of REM sleep include: (1) thatREM sleep provides stimulation for the development of the brain; (2) that it performs a chemicalrestoration function, since during REM dreaming neuro-protein synthesis occurs along with therestoration of other depleted brain chemicals; (3) that it provides oculomotor (eye movement)coordination, since during non-REM sleep the eyes move independently of each other; (4) that itprovides a vigilance function, since REM sleep (stage I) is characterized by a level ofconsciousness close to the awakened state; (5) in a more recent and controversial theory, REMdreaming performs a neurological erasure function, eliminating extraneous information build-up inthe memory system; and (6) that, in a more cognitive psychological explanation, REM dreamingenhances memory storage and reorganization. Contrary to popular belief, dreaming is not caused by eating certain foods beforebedtime, nor by environmental stimuli during sleeping. Dreaming is caused by internal biologicalprocess. Some researchers have proposed the activation-synthesis hypothesis. Theirneurological research indicates that large brain cells in the primitive brain stem spontaneously fireabout every 90 minutes, sending random stimuli to cortical areas of the BRAIN. As aconsequence, memory, sensory, muscle-control, and cognitive areas of the brain are randomlystimulated, resulting in the higher cortical brain attempting to make some sense of it. This,according to the research, gives rise to the experience of a dream. Now, as in the past, the most significant controversy centers on the question of whether dreamshave intentional, or actual personal, meaning. Many psychotherapists maintain that while theneurological impulses from the brain stem may activate the dreaming process, the content ormeaningful representations in dreams are caused by nonconscious needs, wishes, desires, andeveryday concerns of the dreamer. Thus, such psychotherapists subscribe to thephenomenological-clinical, or “top-down,” explanation, which holds that dreams are intentionallymeaningful messages from the unconscious. The neurological, or “bottom-up,” explanationmaintains that dreams have no intentional meaning. In between these two positions is anapproach called content analysis. Content analysis simply describes and classifies the various

representations in dreams, such as people, houses, cars, trees, animals, and color, though nodeep interpretation is attributed to the content. Differences in content have been discoveredbetween the dreams of males and females, and between dreams and occurring in differentdevelopmental stages of life. What these differences mean is under investigation. Some recent research seems to indicate that dream content reflects problems that thedreamer experiences in life, and that the function of such dreams is to facilitate the emotionalresolution of the problems. Numerous accounts exist of scientific problems being resolved, andliterary works being developed in dreams after dreamers had consciously immersed themselves ina problem for an extended time. Cognitive psychologists are concerned with logic and thought processing duringdreaming, and how they are different from mental processes during the waking state. In studiesof the developmental cognitive processes of children’s dreams, for instance, it has been foundthat the increasing complexity of children’s dreams parallel waking cognitive development. Manyresearchers believe that knowledge about dreaming is important for understanding wakingimagination. Current and future research issues involve further establishing and extending all of theabove areas. Anthropologists are studying cross-culture similarities and differences in dreams. Research into NIGHTMARES and bizarre dreams continues. In addition, REM research isimportant for understanding psychobiological abnormalities. Some findings indicate that epilepticseizures are suppressed during REM sleep. Narcoleptics, people who may involuntarily fall asleepat any time, enter REM sleep almost immediately. Research continues on the variations in dreamrecall. For instance, artists tend to recall more dreams than scientists, and, for the population atlarge, only a small percentage of dreams are recalled. Lucid dreaming, the ability of dreamers to become aware of and to control their dreams whiledreaming, is also the focus of some current research. Some lucid dreamers can learn tocommunicate with researchers through nonverbal signals. New research also promises to yieldsignificant knowledge about memory, storage and retrieval, cognitive organization,psychobiological processes, human consciousness, and specific operations of the mind


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