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Sophie F's picture

In our discussion about

In our discussion about what it means to “see” and what characterizes vision, images or light or something else, it occurred to me that generally we think of dreams as being images and whether this characterizes a kind of “sight” or is a recreation of images seen in the past and stored as memories that are then “played” like a film, that is somehow integrated by our unconscious (or the intersection between conscious and unconscious). How do dreams manifest themselves when they are not a direct result of sensory input, unless one is acutely attuned to one’s environment while sleeping? Are dreams an integration of corollary discharge signals and memories of sensory information coupled with the actions of the looping mechanisms of the nervous system?

On a separate note, it occurred to me during our discussion about language acquisition that, perhaps, there is some corollary in our “emotional learning.” As Prof. Grobstein discussed, in order for birds to acquire song, they need to hear songs being sung and then need to be able to hear themselves singing that song. What if the same were true for emotional learning? If we acquire an emotional “tool box” from our caregivers as children, which then establish a series of expectations within our nervous system based upon the mechanisms of corollary discharge and CPG’s, perhaps when the emotional language with which we are equipped is somehow incongruous with input from the outside or a conflicting corollary discharge, there is some compensatory mechanism. Just as in the development of language deficits, perhaps there is a comparable scenario that exists for emotions. And somehow, the I-function is malleable enough to accommodate any scenario with which it is presented in terms of emotional discord, but is also able to mediate in certain circumstances and override the corollary discharge. And once conflict-resolution has been established, perhaps the I-function mediates when necessary to override incoming signals.

The final thought I had regarding our discussion of late, involves people who experience chronic pain of one form or another. If the subjective experience of pain is the nervous system’s way of alerting us to danger and/or reconciling conflicting information, what of a disorder like fibromyalgia that is characterized by diffuse pain of varying severity and seems to be of unknown origin? Is this, like generalized anxiety disorder might also be, a “creation” of the nervous system to respond to conflicting input and corollary discharge signal that then translates into a continued, self-perpetuated cycle of pain due to the establishment of a central pattern? The ever-trusty source Wikipedia has this line in its description of fibromyalgia that stuck me, “The validity of fibromyalgia as a unique clinical entity is a matter of some contention among researchers in the field.” Because its etiology is still uncertain, there is some question as to whether fibromyalgia constitutes a “legitimate” disease category, which, to my mind, undermines the experience of pain as a subjective phenomenon that may not always have observable clinical diagnostic criteria. And, indeed, to the person experiencing chronic, pain, the feelings of fatigue, diffuse pain and paralysis could not be more “real.” So, who’s to say what’s real anyway? Given that “stress” and “depression” are commonly comorbid with fribromyalgia, the omnipotence of the psychosomatic may well be at play, which does not de-legitimize the experience of pain, whether caused by an acute knife injury or something one experiences daily. Another fascinating “disorder” of a similar ilk to fibromyalgia is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).


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