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lrifkin's picture

Memory and Vision

After reflecting upon our discussions from class, I read an interesting article on MSNBC.com titled “How The Brain Turns Reality Into Dreams.” The article was written by Kathleen Wren and discussed how memory affects our “vision” when our eyes are closed. Ms. Wren wrote about dreams, and about what people see in them. Often, she explains, individuals wonder where their dreams have come from. However, there is a logical explanation for what we see when our eyes are shut. She explains that much of what we dream has been traditionally thought to come from recent experiences or newly learned information. This type of input is known as declarative memory.

Ms. Wren then cited a study out to prove that dreams come from implicit memories, or memories that we do not know we have. In this study participants played the game “Tetris” as day. At the end of the day, some participants remembered playing and some did not (not all individuals involved in the study had “normal” memory). However, when the participants went to sleep, a majority of them described “seeing” falling blocks. All participants, regardless of their memory impairments, spoke of this phenomenon.

Thus, Ms. Wren’s article has caused me to question “seeing” with our eyes closed. Although I do not doubt our ability to see light with our eyelids shut, I do wonder how much of what we see is based on memory, versus actual vision. Could it be the case that when we close our eyes and “see,” we are actually composing a picture of images from the past?

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