Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dreams as simulations

Now that I drive to work, sometimes I wonder: what if an emergency happens? A car hits me from behind, or someone changes into my lane... this never happens, so how can I be prepared for it? Are my dreams helping out?

For centuries people people have wondered about the meaning of dreams. Some time ago I decided that the likely primary purpose of dreaming is to train us for potential future situations: a sort of virtual reality where the brain creates a random situation, we react to it in the dream state, and then the brain attempts to predict the outcome. By doing this every night, we learn, while asleep, how to react to waking situations before they ever happen.

This article I just found lends credence to my pet theory. Of course, it is widely reported that we learn better if we sleep after studying. So perhaps dreams also exist to give the brain a chance to examine what has recently happened, and make better sense of it.

1 comment:

smg.rhill said...

My understanding of dreams was that this was the moment that your brain could get on and sort out the events of the day - without you interfering. I can see the idea of dreams allowing you to confront unknown situations and role play your reactions. But if that is the case why do dreams so often involve situations that are highly unlikely to occur ?

A recurring theme for me over the past few years is that I am at work with a mish mash of people (They are all from different periods of my life). The problem to be resolved is often a difficult one and yet most of the time we do. All very interesting apart from the fact that I am retired, no longer live in the same country and have no intentions of starting work again (and certainly not in the same place). My only answer to this one is the fact that it is a form of nightmare. I am terrified that one day I will wake up and discover that my new home, collection of beers and Battlefield Web Sites are still well off in the future.

I have either entered a Star Trek space/time continuum, fallen into a coma somewhere, or just have to accept that my life rather strangely did actually get better.