A Study on Dreams and the Unconscious Mind

There have been several different theories tossed into the conversation about the unconscious mind. Although the discussion remains unresolved, each theory serves a large purpose in the study of dreams. Freud introduced the manifest content and latent content of dreams, psychologists since then have dabbled in information processing theories, ideas of the brain making sense of neural activity during REM, growth, or even improving cognitive development or their understanding of their surroundings.

Katherine MacDuffie and George A. Mashour’s, “Dreams and the Temporality of Consciousness” (2010) discusses the development and discoveries of a theory of consciousness.

Lack of theory does not eliminate the chance that each concept has truth in its particular way. Studies from PET scans on the brain support the connection between REM sleep and memory, as well as Freud’s content theory. Developmental processes and the notion of our brain “making sense” of neural activity are both entire plausible, and supported with data. Dreams appear to be the full power of the brain, at once.

Although psychologists propose several dream theories, the extensive list still cannot determine the reasoning behind why dreams occur. Freud believed dreaming satisfied our own wishes. Split into two segments, manifest content and latent content, dreams create a “psychic safety valve,” for our brains. In other words, feelings that are not considered desirable are protected by its manifest content, the remembered plot of said dream. Whereas, the latent content of a dream more comfortably depicts what has occurred.

Freud had quite the confidence in his discovery, deeming it, “the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been [his] good fortune to make”.

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Unfortunately for Freud, the amount of scientific evidence surrounding his discovery was lacking. On the other hand, Freud’s theory has given way to other dream theories and discoveries.

One of these other theories, Information Processing, is the process in which dreams help sort out what has been learned that day, as well as solidifying memories in place. Subject’s memories’ were tested the day after learning something new resulting in evidence to support to this claim. The group that lacked REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and slow wave sleep did not score nearly as well as the group that had been exposed to both categories. (Stickgold et al., 2000, 2001) Another study, reveals that the stimulus of the certain regions of the brain during REM sleep are identical to the rat’s brain stimulus as they learn to maneuver around a maze. (Louie & Wilson, 2001; Maquet, 2001) The hole in the theory? Why do we dream of things we have not experienced?

Dreaming to maintain and develop neural pathways contains developmental sense. Brain activity associated with REM sleep, better known as dreaming, serves a mechanical, physical, and biochemical function. This provides stimulation through sleep cycles for the subject entering REM. Sleep is the key to neural networks developing. The majority of an infant’s rest takes place in REM, raising an interest in this theory of psychology. The infant diving deep into REM each night is supportive of the idea that REM sleep, or dreaming, is meant to maintain and develop neural pathways, in other words, develop the human mind, correctly.

Why can the solution not be something as simple as the ‘brain making sense?’ It truly could be. “It has been reported that 65% of the imagery and context we experience in the dream state is derived from our memory of people and places we have seen before.” (Fosse, Fosse, Hobson, & Stickgold, 2003) Neural static, or the aforementioned, “imagery and context,” is present in all states of consciousness.

As a result, the brain must take the time to sort it out. During REM sleep, this neural activity bounces around the mind, resulting in the compilation of bits and pieces of our visual memories. PET scans of people emerged in REM sleep supports this theory, as the study revealed an increase in activity in the limbic system, or more specifically the amygdala, which effects a person’s emotions–similar to Freud’s theory (Manifest content, Latent content). Together, the hippocampus and amygdala create what are perceived as dreams.

The brain creates a visual lay out of neural activity using memories, while the amygdala creates an emotional tone, providing a basis for dreaming. If memories are generated in the hippocampus, and dreams come from memories, why is it common to be unsure of what had happened in a dream state? Unlike that of the limbic system, the frontal lobe regions that allow logical and critical thinking seem to idle, creating a fog over the memory of our dreams.

Although the neuroscience of dreams is not targeted, cognitive development is heavily hinted at during a time of sleep. Some researchers would rather see dreams as a sign of understanding and development. Before a child reaches 9 years old, their dreams seem chopped up into segments for the brain has not yet fully matured, evidence to the claim dreams help develop the brain.

Katherine MacDuffie and George A. Mashour’s journal, “Dreams and the Temporality of Consciousness,” encompasses the idea that dreams are the full power of the brain, all at once. When the mind enters the resting waves in the sleep stages, cognitive activity does anything but rest.

The past, present and future become one when we dream, the motor output is blocked, and our primary sensory zones are not currently active. “The pattern of activity evident from electroencephalography show that cortical activity during REM sleep is similar to that of waking.” (P. 190, MacDuffie, Mashour, 2010) An interesting discovery, is it not? Although our body is shut down, including the majority of our neural zones, the biggest zone, the one responsible for who we are, how we act and what is actually going on at night, is not. The brain.

MacDuffie and Mashour’s piece brings attention to the drug dopamine, which intensifies the experience of dreaming. Originally it was thought that dopamine release was not related to dreaming as the neurons moved throughout waking, NREM and REM sleep. In 2007, Dahan reported that during REM sleep the dopaminergic neurons switch from continuous to burst fire.

This “burst firing” is almost identical to that of an animal being rewarded. “Mirmiran and colleagues (Mirmiran, 1995; Mirmiran, Maas, & Ariagno, 2003) studied the role of REM sleep in development and found that the amount of REM sleep is an indicator of the level of brain development.” (P. 194; MacDuffie, Mashour, 2010)This confirming one of the 6 theories to be true, but not disproving any other theory along its development. As a result, dream theory may not have had a monumental breakthrough. It is possible, however, that the views of Freud, Solms, and Hobson do not stick out; rather they relate to dream consciousness in their own aspects.

The article and research done on this paper related directly to information received in class. From accuracy of studies, to the self-thought questions created as a result of a lecture, this article completely encompassed that chapter in the book. Particularly the focus on REM sleep and other sleep stages throughout the human mind in its unconscious state. The depth this article took the information to, however, surpassed anything I could have thought of when it comes to the lengths psychologists have gone to, in order to test their hypothesis. Studies have been conducted on anything and everything imaginable for the unconscious mind. What surely stumps researchers, and myself, is truly the question, why do we dream? The thought that each of the 5 theories have supporting evidence, truly makes one wonder.

Throughout the reading, the readers understanding surely develops. With each individual paragraph, a new study, a new term, or some sort of reinforcement of aforementioned studies are offered. However, it both confused, as well as stupefied me, that REM sleep waves are similar to the waves of the active, or waking brain. Until I read on, “…both dreaming and waking consciousness are internally generated; the difference between the two states is that only waking consciousness is modulated by external input.” (P. 190; MacDuffie, Mashour; 2010) There were various instances when this occurred, I was pleased with the article resulting in my choice to use it for this paper.

There was also a clarification in the role of Freud in the Consciousness Theory. The difference between manifest content and latent content was finally cemented into my memory. It was fascinating to learn things that had not been brought to my attention for lack of relevance, cool nonetheless. For instance, the idea of sleeping in a stress free environment is brought up, and how beneficial that may be for someone who struggles with sleep deprivation- another thing discussed in class.

With each explanation for the numerous theories, came a certain type of satisfaction, or at least contention with the theory. With this feeling, comes the questions beneath. Why do we dream about a person with little influence on our life so vividly? Why do dreams reoccur? Are there truly meanings behind each dream? For example, the theory the dream of losing teeth relates to stress in one’s life. Or perhaps seeing bananas expressing sexual urges.

The question about reoccurring dreams, is the question I find myself wondering upon late at night. Ever since childhood, the dream of the “Danimals Alligator” has haunted me. It began by the alligator himself in a leather jacket and aviators knocking on the door and kidnapping my adolescent self. Meanwhile, my parents and brother sit quietly by as this unfolds, leaving the feelings of absolute helplessness, as well as a sense of despair throughout the following morning.

Amongst the morning-after feelings of a dream-filled night’s sleep comes a sense of confusion. If the brain is truly supposed to be making sense of the neural activity, why is it that the next day, no matter how hard you try, the memory of the dream simply will not be entirely there? If the brain creates a foundation for the dream based on memories, should we not be able to recall that dream? The brain as we know, is the center of everything, without the brain, living things are nothing but a stack of bones and meat.

Consider this, dreams, defined by the work of MacDuffie and Mashour, is the full power of the brain at work during the night. With that being said, why have no true incredible mind boggling discoveries come during the body’s resting period? Aside from the scientific method and the arrangement of the periodic table, no discovery regarding the brain has truly come up.

The brain, is the brain, why can we not fully understand it? No one will ever truly know what another being is thinking, how they are feeling in that exact moment, or what that being has been through in their life. The only person that will ever truly know those things about you, is you. What makes you, you? Well, your brain of course! When it is stimulated by a certain action, sight, or feeling, good or bad, you expect what comes to you because that is what you are used to. When we can understand why these sensations came to us, then I will accept that a being can truly know oneself.

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A Study on Dreams and the Unconscious Mind. (2023, Mar 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-study-on-dreams-and-the-unconscious-mind/

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