Part 5: The World of Dreams Reexamined


randomness cosmic virgin by dali.jpg (8181 bytes)

Cosmic Virgin by Salvadore Dali

The latest neuropsychological theory of dreams, which is in direct opposition with Freudian concepts, was developed by two Harvard University scientists - Drs. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley. According to their Activation-Synthesis Model, dreaming is caused physiologically by a “dream state generator,” which is located in the brain stem. It is “on” during REM sleep, while all sensory input and motor output are blocked, and the neurons in the cerebral cortex are activated by random impulses that generate sensory information within the nervous system. As Hobson and McCarley put it: “the activated forebrain then synthesizes the dream out of internally generated information, trying its best to make sense out of the nonsense it is being presented with.”
The logic used in the development of the Activation-Synthesis Model stems from the predictable regularity that is observed in the triggering of a dream state. Hobson and McCarley stress that “the motivating force for dreaming is not psychological but physiological since the time of occurrence and duration of dreaming sleep are quite constant, suggesting a preprogrammed, neurally determined genesis.”
Hobson’s and McCartey’s treatment of symbol formation is also in direct opposition with Freudian conception. They believe that “bizarre features” of a dream world are simply a reflection of the bizarre state (the bombardment with internal excitory signals, etc.) of the dreaming brain. That is, in the construction of a dream “the forebrain may be making the best of a bad job in producing even a partially coherent dream imagery from the relatively noisy signals sent up to it from the brain stem.” This implies that dreams have no emotional content since they are triggered only by sensory and motor aspects of bodily activity.


“Let us learn to dream, gentelmen”

-Friedrich August von Kekule

kekule.gif (8537 bytes)

A Dream by Friedrich August von Kekule

Based on our knowledge of brain physiology, there is no doubt that the Activation-Synthesis Model is right by dismissing the Freudian notion that dreams are always instigated by a wish. However, various evidence certainly suggests that dreaming is more than “genetically determined.” Also,at some times, we can have dreams with an eloquently constructed story lines and they actually can which influence our behavior.
Dreams very often have a profound effect on how one relates to the outside world. One dreamer recalls: “when my children were about nine and four I had a dream that they were crossing the street at a crosswalk with friend of theirs. All three got hit by a car and were killed. I recall waking up and being absolutely terrified. I jumped out of bed and went to check on them. They were both sound asleep and in good health. None the less the fear would not leave me so I did something that I ready do, I knelt be my bed with tears running down my face and prayed to God that this dream never come true.” In fact, this mother’s entire outlook on life was changed by her dream; she restored her belief in God and became a more protective mother who appreciated each day with her children. Stories like this are numerous and it is apparent that many dreams give people a profusion of information about themselves.
So where do such contradictions to the purely genomic explanation of dreams lead one? Was Freud onto something after all? What is going on inside the brain that lets it use itself as a subject of exploration and is that exploration “meaningful”? These are the questions addressed in the next section.


Dreaming, Illusion, and Reality

Dreaming: Function and Meaning

From Genomes to Dreams

Freud: “Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis”
Reference #2 within Dreaming: Function and Meaning

Dream Dialogue
Reference #7 within Dreaming: Function and Meaning

Why is Dream Forgetting Common?

A Biophysical Model for Altered States of Consciousness

Index Introduction Part1 Part2 Part3 Part4 Part5 Part6