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The Science of Dreams and Why We Have Nightmares

The Science of Dreams and Why We Have Nightmares
by Maria Popova The psychology of our built-in nocturnal therapy. “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind,” Freud argued in his influential treatise The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. “The earth is heavy and opaque without dreams,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in 1940. “In the olden days, people believed that our dreams were full of clues about the future,” Alain de Botton told a little kid who wanted to know about dreaming. But what, exactly, are dreams and why do we have them? In Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep (public library) — best science books of 2012, exploring what happens while you sleep and how it affects your every waking moment, which also gave us this fascinating reads on sleep and the teenage brain — David K. By the time [Hall] died in 1985, Hall had synopses of more than fifty thousand dreams from people of all age groups and nationalities. And yet theories continue to differ.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/10/16/the-science-of-dreams-and-why-we-have-nightmares/

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How to Optimize Your Brain: Why Refining Emotional Recall is the Secret to Better Memory by Maria Popova “You are what you remember — your very identity depends on all of the events, people and places you can recall.” We’ve seen the many ways in which our memory can be our merciless traitor: it is not a recording device but a practitioner of creative plagiarism, a terrible timekeeper, and the bent backbone in the anatomy of lying. How, then, can this essential human faculty become our ally? In The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well (public library) — a compendium of pragmatic advice on such modern fixations and timeless aspirations as how to create a great company culture (courtesy of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh) to how to be funny (courtesy of Alec Baldwin) to how to fight for justice (courtesy of Constance Rice) — neurologist, neuropsychiatrist, and prolific brain-book author Richard Restak offers some vital tips on how to optimize your brain, central to which is honing the capacity and performance of your memory: Donating = Loving

What the Science of “Sleep Paralysis” Reveals About How the Brain Works by Maria Popova How a neurological nightmare illuminates the wondrous workings of the brain-body connection. “In both writing and sleeping,” Stephen King wrote in his meditation on “creative sleep” and the art of wakeful dreaming, “we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.” But while he was exploring the creative process from a metaphorical angle, he was inadvertently describing one of the greatest neurological nightmares that could befall us. Due to the sheer enormity of what happens in the brain while we sleep, there is also a sizable possibility that things would go wrong; when they do, things can get scary. And few sleep-related brain glitches can be scarier than what is known as “sleep paralysis” — the evil twin of lucid dreaming.

How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word Find a Subject You Care About Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation by Maria Popova “Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality.” Given my soft spot for famous diaries, it should come as no surprise that I keep one myself.

Drugs That May Cause Memory Loss Side Effect How they can cause memory loss: Benzodiazepines dampen activity in key parts of the brain, including those involved in the transfer of events from short-term to long-term memory. Indeed, benzodiazepines are used in anesthesia for this very reason. When they're added to the anesthesiologist's cocktail of meds, patients rarely remember any unpleasantness from a procedure. Midazolam (Versed) has particularly marked amnesic properties. Alternatives: Benzodiazepines should be prescribed only rarely in older adults, in my judgment, and then only for short periods of time. It takes older people much longer than younger people to flush these drugs out of their bodies, and the ensuing buildup puts older adults at higher risk for not just memory loss, but delirium, falls, fractures and motor vehicle accidents.

Your Mind & Body Are Not Separate For more: This isn’t news to anyone, right? We talk about feeling things in “our guts.” We talk about a lump in our throat when we are upset. Our daily language illustrates this, but how often do we ignore what our bodies are telling us? Birth of new brain cells might erase babies’ memories Unlike the proverbial elephants, babies always forget. Infants’ memories may be wiped clean by the genesis of new brain cells, a study in rodents suggests. The findings offer an explanation for why people can’t recall memories from early childhood, a century-old mystery. The study’s authors “make a very interesting and compelling case,” says neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. “It’s just truly fascinating,” he says. “Nobody has actually looked at this very carefully before.”

On a Beam of Light: The Story of Albert Einstein, Illustrated by the Great Vl... by Maria Popova The charming visual tale of an introverted little boy who grew up to become the quintessential modern genius. Given my soft spot for picture-book and graphic-novel accounts of famous lives, including Charles Darwin, Julia Child, Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Feynman, Ella Fitzgerald, and Steve Jobs, I was instantly taken with On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein (public library). Map of the Brain’s Connections We knew anatomy could be gorgeous, but this is beyond anything else we’ve ever seen, and it’s guaranteed to be something you haven’t seen, being the first 3D image of a brain’s connections. Van Wedeen, a Harvard radiology professor, is awestruck: “We’ve never really seen the brain – it’s been hiding in plain sight.” Conventional scanning has offered us a crude glimpse, but scientists such as Wedeen aim to produce the first ever three-dimensional map of all its neurons. They call this circuit diagram the “connectome”, and it could help us better understand everything from imagination and language to the miswirings that cause mental illness. But with 100 billion neurons hooked together by more connections than there are stars in the MilkyWay, the brain is a challenge that represents petabyte-level data. Photographed above is the 3D image of an owl-monkey’s brain.

Why some memories last and others fade We are more likely to form lasting memories when there is coordinated activity between two specific brain regions, MRI scans show. “When memories are supported by greater coordination between different parts of the brain, it’s a sign that they are going to last longer,” says Lila Davachi, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science at New York University. It is commonly understood that the key to memory consolidation—the cementing of an experience or information in our brain—is signaling from the brain’s hippocampus across different cortical areas. Moreover, it has been hypothesized, but never proven, that the greater the distribution of signaling, the stronger the memory takes hold in our brain. To determine if there was scientific support for this theory, Davachi and a colleague examined how memories are formed at their earliest stages through a series of experiments over a three-day period.

Hidden Metaphors Get under Our Skin Look around. Do you see four walls or an expansive vista? The answer could influence your ability to think creatively. A growing body of research suggests that our sensory experiences can trigger metaphorical thinking, influencing our insights and behavior without us even realizing it. New research reveals ways we might be able to harness these subconscious forces. Study reveals workings of working memory Keep this in mind: Scientists say they've learned how your brain plucks information out of working memory when you decide to act. Say you're a busy mom trying to wrap up a work call now that you've arrived home. While you converse on your Bluetooth headset, one kid begs for an unspecified snack, another asks where his homework project has gone, and just then an urgent e-mail from your boss buzzes the phone in your purse. During the call's last few minutes these urgent requests—snack, homework, boss—wait in your working memory. When you hang up, you'll pick one and act.

5 Timeless Books of Insight on Fear and the Creative Process by Maria Popova From Monet to Tiger Woods, or why creating rituals and breaking routines don’t have to be conflicting notions. “Creativity is like chasing chickens,” Christoph Niemann once said. The Science Behind Intuition Almost every Radical Remission cancer survivor I’ve studied used their intuition to help make decisions related to their healing process. Research on intuition and following your ‘gut’ instinct may explain why. Scientists have discovered that humans appear to have two, very different “operating systems.”

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