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Unconscious And The Dreaming Brain

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#1 DrmDoc

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 04:58 PM

Hello Friends,

 

After more than 30 years of study, I've learned a few things about the nature of dreams and the dreaming brain. By no means does my stated years of study validate my perspective beyond that of any other visitor's posted history.  I'm certain most visitors to this science discussion site consider factors beyond the credulity of what a person writes about himself and his experience.  However, I always endeavor to use science, reason, and empirical objective observations as a basis for my views and opinions. With that said, I like to talk about the neurological nature of consciousness suggested by the distinction between the waking and dreaming brain.  Is it fair to suggest that specific functional differences in the brain between its waking and dreaming states reveal the neurological nature of the differences between the conscious and unconscious mind?  To my point, the unconscious is often perceived as a separate functional entity or identity beneath our conscious awareness.  As a functional entity, the unconscious is credited as or believed to be the source of a host of behavioral aberrations.  Some of us may use subconscious in terms synonymous with the unconscious, which is imprecise.  Our brain generates only two distinct states of activity wherein active mentation is suggested: Conscious (waking-state) and unconscious (dreaming-state).  Rather than a state of brain activity or mentation, subconscious describes an influence upon that activity and mentation.  If we agree that the dreaming-state of brain activity and mentation provides a neurological picture of the unconscious mind, is it fair to suggest that this picture defines and reveals the functional constituents of the unconscious mind that distinguish its mentation processes from the processes of the conscious mind?  One functional distinction is hypofrontality. However, this state of low prefrontal activation is not unique to the unconscious state of dreaming.  Hypofrontality is also a condition of the conscious schizophrenic brain. This appears to suggest that the dreaming brain experiences schizophrenia.  Is the unconscious mind schizophrenic? Are we partly schizophrenic because we dream?  I welcome your thoughts.



#2 Turtle

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Posted 30 August 2015 - 10:17 PM

Hello Friends, 
...
  Is the unconscious mind schizophrenic? Are we partly schizophrenic because we dream?  I welcome your thoughts.


Schizophrenia is pathological and dreaming is not so I'd say no, the 'unconscious' mind is not schizophrenic.

#3 DrmDoc

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 09:57 AM

Schizophrenia is pathological and dreaming is not so I'd say no, the 'unconscious' mind is not schizophrenic.

 

Schizophrenia has a behavior pathology and some may consider the surreal experiences and behaviors they engage in dreams to be similar to that of the schizophrenic.  I believe dreaming gives us a glimpse of the schizophrenic experience but I, as you, do not believe that the unconscious mind is schizophrenic. Hypofrontality is a condition that both the dreaming and schizophrenic brain share and reports of physical violence (murder, sexual assaults, etc.) and other aberrant behaviors amid somnolent states might suggest that they share much more. But there is a distinction between the conscious state of hypofrontality and its unconscious state as suggested by the overwhelming lack of behavioral anomalies physically engaged amid the normal state of dreaming.  Generally, we don't move about our rooms and attempt to engage the behaviors we experience while dreaming.  Although not immobile, we remain generally motionless.  I believe the reason we are motionless is a important clue to what separates the mentation processes of our unconscious mind from our conscious mind.  I welcome your continued interest.



#4 Turtle

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Posted 31 August 2015 - 02:50 PM

Schizophrenia has a behavior pathology and some may consider the surreal experiences and behaviors they engage in dreams to be similar to that of the schizophrenic.  I believe dreaming gives us a glimpse of the schizophrenic experience but I, as you, do not believe that the unconscious mind is schizophrenic. Hypofrontality is a condition that both the dreaming and schizophrenic brain share and reports of physical violence (murder, sexual assaults, etc.) and other aberrant behaviors amid somnolent states might suggest that they share much more. But there is a distinction between the conscious state of hypofrontality and its unconscious state as suggested by the overwhelming lack of behavioral anomalies physically engaged amid the normal state of dreaming.  Generally, we don't move about our rooms and attempt to engage the behaviors we experience while dreaming.  Although not immobile, we remain generally motionless.  I believe the reason we are motionless is a important clue to what separates the mentation processes of our unconscious mind from our conscious mind.  I welcome your continued interest.​

I did some reading on Hypofrontality @ Wiki and this bit seems germane.
 

Even with the large amounts of research on hypofrontality in schizophrenia, there is still a lot to be learned about its neuronal mechanisms. Possible causes are hypothesized to be impaired synaptic connectivity and neurotransmission resulting from neurodevelopmental and/or genetic factors but there is not a complete understanding hypofrontality as a whole.[12]


As to the no movement during sleep and dreaming I think this may be addressed well enough by referring to hypnogogic and hypnopompic states, particularly sleep paralysis when the subject becomes aware of this inability to move. The study of these states appears primarily as EEG recordings though and maybe there would be a benefit to also doing blood flow imaging along with the EEGs. In any case, the sleep paralysis does not seem to share the neurodevelopmental and/or genetic factors pathology ascribed/conjectured to apply to hypofrontality from the little I have read; that is to say anyone can experience sleep paralysis.

#5 DrmDoc

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 03:29 PM

My reference to hypofrontality was to merely suggest a neurological distinction that both the schizophrenic and dream brain share.  Indeed, the causes of that low state of prefrontal brain activation in schizophrenia and in the dreaming state may be separate and distinct as well.  Although I have reviewed no evidence suggesting a connection between hypofrontality and hypnogogic states of paralysis, there may be a link between the cause of hypofrontality amid dreaming and why we do not normally engage in gross motor activities while dreaming. 

 

In a previous post, I wrote about a relaxed state of muscle readiness (atonia) that many researchers believe arises to keep us immobile while dreaming.  From evidence provided by pontine studies in cats, researchers have shown how tonic muscle responses occur amid dreaming when pontine function is suppressed.  They believe this evidence shows how pontine function mediates our muscles responses in sleep by partially suspending the connection between the brain and those responses.  I believe that is not what their evidence shows and my opinion's basis provide an explanation for hypofrontality amid dreaming and its link to atonia.  When we consider the hierarchal nature of brain function that decerebrate studies have suggested, we will find that both hypofrontality and atonia is a hierarchal response to what the pons contributes to overall brain function--which we could explore further on. When we explore the pons contribution, I think we will find a primary distinction of the unconscious mind from the conscious mind.  In that previous post I mentioned, I briefly described that distinction.  If you would like to explore further, I welcome your interest. 

 



#6 Turtle

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 03:58 PM

[... When we explore the pons contribution, I think we will find a primary distinction of the unconscious mind from the conscious mind.  In that previous post I mentioned, I briefly described that distinction.  If you would like to explore further, I welcome your interest.

I am interested but not well enough informed to evaluate your ideas. I do know that the idea of an 'unconscious' mind is not without controversy and given to various definitions so perhaps you could better delineate what you mean by the term. :)

#7 DrmDoc

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Posted 02 September 2015 - 10:22 AM

I am interested but not well enough informed to evaluate your ideas. I do know that the idea of an 'unconscious' mind is not without controversy and given to various definitions so perhaps you could better delineate what you mean by the term.

 

There's not a moment, after many years of study, that I believe I am as well informed as I could be considering how much I believe remains to be researched and understood. However, I enjoy exchanges like these among initiates to this subject because their views are likely unclouded, as mine may be, by impassioned focus and study over the years. 

 

When discussing the conscious and unconscious attributes of the mind, I generally begin with my perspective of what mind defines.  Mind is the environment of cognitive activity within the brain that arises from brain function.  It is quantified by a brain’s capacity to integrate diverse sensory information through a neural process or function that produces behaviors independent of instinct.  More succinctly, a mind enables proactive rather than reactive behaviors.  I arrived at my perspective of the mind while researching how our dreaming brain likely evolved. By my study of the available research, the normal brain produces two distinct states of activation suggestive of cognitive or mentation activity:  Waking-states (conscious) and dreaming-states (unconscious).  The unconscious mind, in view, is defined by what occurs in the brain amid normal dreaming-states and the mentation processes, perceptions and behaviors that state produces.   As we know, a major distinction of our conscious mentation processes from our unconscious processes--as suggested by the dreaming state--is that we are generally awake and aware relative to our physical surroundings.  Amid the unconscious state of dreaming, we are generally not aware of ourselves relative to our physical environment. The evidence in brain function, if your interest remains, suggests that this lack of awareness is pivotal to what distinguishes the mentation processes of the unconscious state from the conscious state.  That evidence suggests why the mentation process our dreams suggest is so wildly different from our conscious thoughts and perceptions.  It's not just about not being aware, it about the neural switches and information access that transform the cognitive process of the brain. I welcome your thoughts.


Edited by DrmDoc, 02 September 2015 - 10:23 AM.


#8 Turtle

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Posted 02 September 2015 - 07:45 PM

There's not a moment, after many years of study, that I believe I am as well informed as I could be considering how much I believe remains to be researched and understood. However, I enjoy exchanges like these among initiates to this subject because their views are likely unclouded, as mine may be, by impassioned focus and study over the years.

Roger that. :) 
 

When discussing the conscious and unconscious attributes of the mind, I generally begin with my perspective of what mind defines.  Mind is the environment of cognitive activity within the brain that arises from brain function.  It is quantified by a brain’s capacity to integrate diverse sensory information through a neural process or function that produces behaviors independent of instinct.  More succinctly, a mind enables proactive rather than reactive behaviors.  I arrived at my perspective of the mind while researching how our dreaming brain likely evolved. By my study of the available research, the normal brain produces two distinct states of activation suggestive of cognitive or mentation activity:  Waking-states (conscious) and dreaming-states (unconscious).

It seems a bit more complex than that to me. I think unconscious is too broad because it may include such conditions as being 'knocked unconscious' or coma for example. While dreaming state is a better match to oppose waking state, the EEG studies show not all sleep is a dreaming state.
 

The unconscious mind, in view, is defined by what occurs in the brain amid normal dreaming-states and the mentation processes, perceptions and behaviors that state produces.   As we know, a major distinction of our conscious mentation processes from our unconscious processes--as suggested by the dreaming state--is that we are generally awake and aware relative to our physical surroundings.  Amid the unconscious state of dreaming, we are generally not aware of ourselves relative to our physical environment. The evidence in brain function, if your interest remains, suggests that this lack of awareness is pivotal to what distinguishes the mentation processes of the unconscious state from the conscious state.  That evidence suggests why the mentation process our dreams suggest is so wildly different from our conscious thoughts and perceptions.  It's not just about not being aware, it about the neural switches and information access that transform the cognitive process of the brain. I welcome your thoughts.

While some of my dreams are 'wildly' different from waking thoughts, e.g. dreams in which I can fly and while flying reflect on the novelty of it, many of my dreams differ little from waking thoughts and activity. :lazy:



#9 HydrogenBond

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Posted 03 September 2015 - 09:54 AM

Both awaken states and dreaming states are a function of our brain lowering internal potential. In dreams, the potential created by the sensory systems are removed from the equation. The brain rearranges the induced structural potential, like water seeking its own level. Since this flux is connected to memory and follows neural pathways connected to memory, there is a triggering of memory. 

 

If we add the sensory systems, we get an external input potential on top of the internal realignment. The analogy is when it rains heavy, water seeks it own level and flows down hill. If there is an excess of rain, it can flood and even make new paths on its way down hill. Once the rain stops water continues to drain and move downhill. Dreams are a tribute to the way memory is arranged so changes in potential have a coherency in terms of the flow of ideas, symbols and words. 


Edited by HydrogenBond, 03 September 2015 - 09:55 AM.


#10 DrmDoc

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Posted 03 September 2015 - 05:10 PM

It seems a bit more complex than that to me. I think unconscious is too broad because it may include such conditions as being 'knocked unconscious' or coma for example. While dreaming state is a better match to oppose waking state, the EEG studies show not all sleep is a dreaming state.

 

When I reference the unconscious mind, I am describing a state of active brain function that mediates, produces, or in some form evidence a prominent aspect of our psychology.  States of coma and non-dreaming states of unconsciousness do not appear to provide the kind of psychological evidence that the unconscious state of dreaming provides.  I view the unconscious state of dreaming as a reflection of our unconscious mind because it is the only unconscious state of brain function that provides quantifiable evidence (dream reports) of our mind at work while unconscious.  There is a distinction between the behaviors we manifest consciously and unconsciously.  If we accept that the unconscious state of brain function amid dreaming suggests the mind and psychology of the behaviors we unconsciously manifest, then we should also accept its functional distinctions as a view of what distinguishes the unconscious mind from the conscious mind. 

 

How we view the individual aspects of our mind’s overall construct informs our perception of the behaviors it produces and our diagnostic approach to aberrations in those behaviors.  Some of us may view the mind and its constituents as a homogenous, amorphous blend of conjectures and concepts beyond our capacity to quantify neurologically.  There is, however, a neurological hierarchy of brain function that we have quantified through decerebrate and functional brain studies.  One prominent outcome of those studies is that no activity arises or persists in the cortex without a neural connection to subcortical structures.  This is significant because it suggests that all we are or hope to be does not and cannot spontaneously manifest independent of subcortical brain function.  I believe this is consistent with the hierarchal nature of how our brain likely evolved; wherein, the functionality of recently evolved brain structures is reliant on the function of prior, more primitive structures.  When we consider hypofrontality from this cortical-functional-dependency perspective, we find that the likely cause of low prefrontal cortical function amid dreaming and, possibly schizophrenia, resides in subcortical structure.  The suggestion here is that the prefrontal cortex amid dreaming and schizophrenia is not sufficiently activated by some aspect of subcortical function.

 

 

Both awaken states and dreaming states are a function of our brain lowering internal potential. In dreams, the potential created by the sensory systems are removed from the equation. The brain rearranges the induced structural potential, like water seeking its own level. Since this flux is connected to memory and follows neural pathways connected to memory, there is a triggering of memory. 

 

Indeed, not all sensory but rather the potential created by the removal of tactile sensory reality. Some researchers believe that the atonic or paralytic state of our musculature while dreaming is mediated by the pontine-tegmentum (pontine) structures in the brainstem.  They cite studies where cats remained mobile while dreaming and appeared to act upon dream content when pontine function is suppressed.  What these researchers, perhaps, didn’t fully consider is that tonal muscle postures are a reflexive response (efferent) to sensory stimuli (afferent) and that pontine function likely suppresses that stimuli rather than its reflexive responses.  Rather than tonal muscle mediation, pontine function enables our brain’s detection of its tactile sensory reality.  Without the ability to distinguish our sensory reality, the reflexive response systems of our brain remain active while dreaming. With the functions the pontine provides, our dreaming brain is able to determine its sensory reality, which further explains our low prefrontal activation amid dreaming.   I welcome your thoughts.


Edited by DrmDoc, 03 September 2015 - 05:14 PM.


#11 Turtle

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Posted 03 September 2015 - 06:01 PM

When I reference the unconscious mind, I am describing a state of active brain function that mediates, produces, or in some form evidence a prominent aspect of our psychology.  States of coma and non-dreaming states of unconsciousness do not appear to provide the kind of psychological evidence that the unconscious state of dreaming provides.  I view the unconscious state of dreaming as a reflection of our unconscious mind because it is the only unconscious state of brain function that provides quantifiable evidence (dream reports) of our mind at work while unconscious.  ...

Well, then why not just talk about dreaming and forget using the term unconscious? As to evidence of brain activity, the EEGs provide that in conjunction with reports, i.e. subjects may be awakened during different brain states and asked to report on what they recall. Then too, many people report they do not recall their dreams and sleep studies show people enter the dream state -REM sleep- several times a night. Simply guessing about what they are 'thinking' at such times is of no use.

Is there some hypothesis you are working toward here, or is it just a discussion of brain trivia?

Edited by Turtle, 03 September 2015 - 06:11 PM.


#12 HydrogenBond

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Posted 04 September 2015 - 12:39 PM

If you look at the way neurons are designed, they are at highest potential when they are at rest. A neuron expands 90% of its ATP pumping cations forming and maintaining cationic gradients; sodium out and potassium in. All this energy into the membrane will increase the potential in the membrane due to the cationic segregation.

 

When neurons fire, they lower the potential stored in the cationic gradients; ion reversal. The potential becomes the driving force behind currents that work they way toward lower potential. 

 

The way the sensory systems work, is they will induced to fire, similar a neuron, due to a stimulus. This discharge of potential will  will transfer an ionic signal to the brain, which causes neurons to fire; trigger memory.  When we sleep, the sensory systems are shut off, therefore there are fewer triggers to cause the neurons to lower potential. This allows the time average potential of the neurons to increase; closer to rest neuron more often. We still have brain waves, so neurons will continue to fire. 

 

The loss of sensory systems during sleep, means the brain averages higher average potential. The brain attempts to redistribute firing with the goal of even higher potential. These firing sequence appear as dreams. In other words, activation energy is generated by triggering memory, so other things can be pushed up the activation energy hill. The over all goal is to allowing the brain set point potential to rise. 

 

The advantage of the average neuron environment being at highest possible potential; via dreams, is the next day when we awaken, sensory systems can fire the neurons easier; higher level of resolution. 

 

On the other hand, if the brain set point was to remain low, the potential with the sensory system gets lower, such that only strong stimulus seems to get attention. Dreams help our conscious mind help the brain, because humans tend to reinforce behavior and  relearn habits day after day, even though dream try to rerouted this. By thinking about the dream, this help one become aware of the habit so they can break the loop and allow the set point to rise. 


Edited by HydrogenBond, 04 September 2015 - 12:45 PM.


#13 DrmDoc

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Posted 04 September 2015 - 04:43 PM

Well, then why not just talk about dreaming and forget using the term unconscious? As to evidence of brain activity, the EEGs provide that in conjunction with reports, i.e. subjects may be awakened during different brain states and asked to report on what they recall. Then too, many people report they do not recall their dreams and sleep studies show people enter the dream state -REM sleep- several times a night. Simply guessing about what they are 'thinking' at such times is of no use.

 

A valid point; however, I was hoping to engage a discussion of what constitute the unconscious mind relative to brain function.  If I’ve suggested that we could speak of dreams/dreaming and the unconscious mind in synonymous terms, I apologize because they are really not the same.   I think we generally view the unconscious mind as something separate and distinct from the mind that produces our conscious behaviors. If it is separate and distinct, how does it manifest and how is it different from our conscious mind?  I believe the dreaming state of brain activation provides the clearest path to those answers because its product (dream imagery) is generally viewed as a reflection of our unconscious psychology.   If dreaming reflects the workings of a mind that is separate and distinct from that we consciously produce, then its distinction in brain function should tell us why it is so different.

 

Is there some hypothesis you are working toward here, or is it just a discussion of brain trivia?

 

I am not a fan of brain minutia but it has enhanced what little I now understand about the unconscious mind.  I don’t perceive it as an incubator of aberrant behaviors or a bastion of unchecked desires as some may do.   I think the unconscious is a separate mind with access to insights materially beneficial to our conscious concerns.  More than a discussion of trivia, my desire is for an exchange of fresh ideas and a more critical view of my own.

 

If you look at the way neurons are designed, they are at highest potential when they are at rest. A neuron expands 90% of its ATP pumping cations forming and maintaining cationic gradients; sodium out and potassium in. All this energy into the membrane will increase the potential in the membrane due to the cationic segregation. 

When neurons fire, they lower the potential stored in the cationic gradients; ion reversal. The potential becomes the driving force behind currents that work they way toward lower potential.  

The way the sensory systems work, is they will induced to fire, similar a neuron, due to a stimulus. This discharge of potential will  will transfer an ionic signal to the brain, which causes neurons to fire; trigger memory.  When we sleep, the sensory systems are shut off, therefore there are fewer triggers to cause the neurons to lower potential. This allows the time average potential of the neurons to increase; closer to rest neuron more often. We still have brain waves, so neurons will continue to fire.  

The loss of sensory systems during sleep, means the brain averages higher average potential. The brain attempts to redistribute firing with the goal of even higher potential. These firing sequence appear as dreams. In other words, activation energy is generated by triggering memory, so other things can be pushed up the activation energy hill. The over all goal is to allowing the brain set point potential to rise. 

 

I have a couple of question but first, may I review your source?


Edited by DrmDoc, 04 September 2015 - 04:46 PM.


#14 CraigD

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Posted 04 September 2015 - 06:17 PM

I believe the reason we are motionless is a important clue to what separates the mentation processes of our unconscious mind from our conscious mind.

I think the reason for sleep atonia is well-understood enough by neuroscience that we can conclude that it isn’t due to conscious or unconscious thought, but rather by a more primitive, brainstem function.

Self-quoting from a thread in the “FullDive Technology” forum, one dedicated to brain-computer interfaces inspired by an animated TV series:

Though not fully understood, we know from experiments going back more than 65 years that a well-defined brainstem structure, the pontine tegmentum, is responsible for inhibiting our muscles during sleep. If this structure is physically damaged or chemically suppressed, a dreaming animal physically acts out its dreams, walking, jumping, etc. This video is from one such experiment, I think by Michel Jouvet ca 1960. Malfunctions of this system are suspected to cause disorders such as sleepwalking and sleep paralysis.


Is it fair to suggest that specific functional differences in the brain between its waking and dreaming states reveal the neurological nature of the differences between the conscious and unconscious mind?

It’s an interesting suggestion, but I think the dichotomy of conscious vs. unconscious mind is a relic of psychodynamic theories of psychology, such as Freud’s, not something supported by neuroscience.
 

After more than 30 years of study, I've learned a few things about the nature of dreams and the dreaming brain.

I was born in 1960, and studied psychology as an undergraduate in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so may have a similar experience to your’s DrmDoc. I’ve not studied psych on a graduate or professional level, though I married a clinical social worker with clinical psych education and experience, and an interest in psychology literature beginning in her childhood, especially in “dreamy” therapeutic approaches such as Gestalt. I also had the good fortune to intern in an inpatient mental hospital, and work on a project involving writing computer programs used in therapy for brain injured people.

A good thing about studying psych when I did is that I learned Freudian and Jungian dream analysis at a time that many therapists took it seriously, which now only a few do, and being introduced to later approaches like Calvin Hall’s when it was still an “alternative” to the older approaches. Present day students often have only short exposures to the psychodynamic theories as discredited historical footnotes.

Freudians and Jungians considered the unconscious to be a very real, likely neurologically tangible thing, and viewed dreams as a way of probing it more readily than waking psychoanalysis. Jung was less dismissive of “manifest content” in dream analysis than Freud was, and Hall developed an approach that focused on practically exclusively of Feud’s highly symbolic approach, proposing that dreaming and waking thought are similar, cognitive processes.

My views on dreams is close to those of Hall and later dream psychologists: in short, I think dreaming thought are simply continuations of waking thought, distinct from it primarily due to the usual waking sensations being nearly completely suppressed.

This is not to say that dreams are not often very useful, fun, even numinous. However, my years of keeping a dream journal, and the evolution of my views on dreams have lead me to see them as more a feature of a category of modes of consciousness on a continuum including those experienced when awake.
 

One functional distinction is hypofrontality. However, this state of low prefrontal activation is not unique to the unconscious state of dreaming. Hypofrontality is also a condition of the conscious schizophrenic brain. This appears to suggest that the dreaming brain experiences schizophrenia.

Even though the literature on it goes back decades, I wasn’t familiar with the condition of hypofrontality until you mentioned it, DrmDoc. From a quick read of its Wikipedia article, however, I gather that it’s a long-term, treatable but currently irreversible neurophysiological condition, usually associated with gross anatomical brain abnormalities, in particular reduced volume of various brain regions, such as the frontal cortex. Since dreaming occurs in people with normal brains, I don’t think the condition usually called hypofrontality is much related to dreaming. It does appear to be strongly related to, and very likely a cause, of various mental illnesses, including some schizophrenias.

A web search for “hypofrontality dreams” finds many relevant references, many referring to the “%5BArne%5D Dietrich’s 2003 transient hypofrontality hypothesis”, which refer to ideas in Dietrich’s Functional neuroanatomy of altered states of consciousness: The transient hypofrontality hypothesis. I think it’s important to note that, though they share a word, the chronic hypofrontality associated with schizophrenia and transient hypofrontality associated with dreaming aren’t the same state/condition.

For this and other reasons, I don’t think dreaming much resembles schizophrenias. Especially, dreams lack a key feature of most schizophrenias: they’re not dominated by a persistent delusional system. In my experience with schizophrenics, I’ve been more impressed by how strongly and constantly they adhere to often very complex, yet rigid delusional ideology than their less frequent florid hallucination. Schizophrenics are schizophrenic both awake and dreaming, and impress me as experiencing both waking and dreaming live very different from non-schizophrenic people.

#15 DrmDoc

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Posted 05 September 2015 - 05:31 PM

I think the reason for sleep atonia is well-understood enough by neuroscience that we can conclude that it isn’t due to conscious or unconscious thought, but rather by a more primitive, brainstem function.  Though not fully understood, we know from experiments going back more than 65 years that a well-defined brainstem structure, the pontine tegmentum, is responsible for inhibiting our muscles during sleep. If this structure is physically damaged or chemically suppressed, a dreaming animal physically acts out its dreams, walking, jumping, etc. This video is from one such experiment, I think by Michel Jouvet ca 1960. Malfunctions of this system are suspected to cause disorders such as sleepwalking and sleep paralysis.

 

 

If my comments inferred atonia in sleep to be a result of conscious or unconscious thought, my apologies because that was not my intent.  It is, however, my contention that atonia serves a metabolic purpose rather than one that keeps us from acting out dream content.  I agree that pontine tegmentum (PT) function inhibits our muscle responses amid dreaming but that is byproduct of it functional purpose, which is distinguished by how that function inhibits our movements and responses.

 

Our tonic muscle postures are a reflexive response to degrees of stimuli.  This means that our musculature retains its tonic and reflexive posture as long as our muscles remain stimulated. The Nobel laureate, Sir Charles S. Sherrington localized this effect in brainstem structure near the end of the nineteenth century.  Through successive removal of brain tissue (decerebration) in animal studies, Sherrington localized our reflexive system in the region of the brainstem where PT structures are located.  He found that the animals he studied maintained their tonic muscle postures as long as they were fed or physically stimulated (Sherrington, S. C. “Decerebrate Rigidty and Reflex Co-ordination of Movements.” J. Physiol. (1898): 22: 319-312.).  This suggests that the brain structures above the PT—structures that produce dreaming—are not essential to atonia production.  This further suggests that our tonic/atonic muscle postures persist for reasons other than service to the dreaming state.

 

Sherrington’s PT results localized our reflexive responses in brainstem structure and proved that our muscle postures are a response to stimuli.  In my view, Jouvet’s results prove that PT function doesn’t inhibit tonic commands directly but likely suppresses sensory stimuli to our musculature, which inhibits those reflexive commands.  There is observable evidence in brain function that proves this sensory suppression effect—hypofrontality.

 

The low functional state of our prefrontal cortex amid dreaming suggest that it is not sufficiently activated by the experience of dreaming, which is precipitated by subcortical function.  The role of prefrontal function in the assessment of consequential experience—meaning experiences that have a material impact on our concerns—further suggests that our brain’s subcortical precipitates or neural inputs lack material elements essential to prefrontal assessment processes.  Further evidence is provided by the role of prefrontal function in memory formation and our general inability to easily recall our dream experiences in detail.  Concisely, memory was evolved from real physical/material sensory experiences and dreaming does not involve real experience.  Consequently, our prefrontal is insufficiently activated and dreams are not easily remembered.

 

It’s an interesting suggestion, but I think the dichotomy of conscious vs. unconscious mind is a relic of psychodynamic theories of psychology, such as Freud’s, not something supported by neuroscience.

 

Perhaps, but neuroscience does indeed support a distinction between the waking and dreaming state of brain function.  If we accept the content of dreams as a reflection of some aspect of our psychology or cognitive process, then neuroscience supports a distinction in the brain function that produce that process. 

 

I was born in 1960, and studied psychology as an undergraduate in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so may have a similar experience to your’s DrmDoc. I’ve not studied psych on a graduate or professional level, though I married a clinical social worker with clinical psych education and experience, and an interest in psychology literature beginning in her childhood, especially in “dreamy” therapeutic approaches such as Gestalt. I also had the good fortune to intern in an inpatient mental hospital, and work on a project involving writing computer programs used in therapy for brain injured people.

A good thing about studying psych when I did is that I learned Freudian and Jungian dream analysis at a time that many therapists took it seriously, which now only a few do, and being introduced to later approaches like
Calvin Hall’s when it was still an “alternative” to the older approaches. Present day students often have only short exposures to the psychodynamic theories as discredited historical footnotes.

Freudians and Jungians considered the unconscious to be a very real, likely neurologically tangible thing, and viewed dreams as a way of probing it more readily than waking psychoanalysis. Jung was less dismissive of “manifest content” in dream analysis than Freud was, and Hall developed an approach that focused on practically exclusively of Feud’s highly symbolic approach, proposing that dreaming and waking thought are similar, cognitive processes.

My views on dreams is close to those of Hall and later dream psychologists: in short, I think dreaming thought are simply continuations of waking thought, distinct from it primarily due to the usual waking sensations being nearly completely suppressed.

This is not to say that dreams are not often very useful, fun, even
numinous. However, my years of keeping a dream journal, and the evolution of my views on dreams have lead me to see them as more a feature of a category of modes of consciousness on a continuum including those experienced when awake.

 

 I agree with your assessments of Freud and Jung’s approach, they are relics of the past and not particularly supported by neuroscience.  However, like Hall, I believe dreaming is a cognitive process though not precisely similar to our waking state.  Although the processes suggested by our waking and dreaming states occupy the same space neurologically, they do not appear to be similarly activated.    The distinction is the difference between how our brain functions with sensory access and without.  With sensory access, no area of normal brain function is insufficiently activated and we have conscious access to all the memories and cognitive tools we use to navigate physical/material reality.  Without sensory access, our brain function is not evenly activated and our prefrontal function remains insufficiently activated when not lucid dreaming.  I equate the distinction between the two with that of a two-story home wherein activity encompasses both floors while we are awake but just the upper floor without access to the amenities of the first floor while dreaming.  Some element of our cognition and experience is missing when we dream and that absence could explain the surreal nature of dream content.

 

Even though the literature on it goes back decades, I wasn’t familiar with the condition of hypofrontality until you mentioned it, DrmDoc. From a quick read of its Wikipedia article, however, I gather that it’s a long-term, treatable but currently irreversible neurophysiological condition, usually associated with gross anatomical brain abnormalities, in particular reduced volume of various brain regions, such as the frontal cortex. Since dreaming occurs in people with normal brains, I don’t think the condition usually called hypofrontality is much related to dreaming. It does appear to be strongly related to, and very likely a cause, of various mental illnesses, including some schizophrenias.

A
web search for “hypofrontality dreams” finds many relevant references, many referring to the “%5BArne%5D Dietrich’s 2003 transient hypofrontality hypothesis”, which refer to ideas in Dietrich’s Functional neuroanatomy of altered states of consciousness: The transient hypofrontality hypothesis. I think it’s important to note that, though they share a word, the chronic hypofrontality associated with schizophrenia and transient hypofrontality associated with dreaming aren’t the same state/condition.

For this and other reasons, I don’t think dreaming much resembles schizophrenias. Especially, dreams lack a key feature of most schizophrenias: they’re not dominated by a persistent delusional system. In my experience with schizophrenics, I’ve been more impressed by how strongly and constantly they adhere to often very complex, yet rigid delusional ideology than their less frequent florid hallucination. Schizophrenics are schizophrenic both awake and dreaming, and impress me as experiencing both waking and dreaming live very different from non-schizophrenic people.

 

Indeed, the transient hypofrontality of the normal dreaming brain isn’t the same as its persistent form in schizophrenia.  I agree that the mix of anatomical abnormalities in the schizophrenic brain involve a varied source of neurological factors.  Although the mechanisms from hypofrontality in schizophrenia may be varied, that doesn’t suggest that the dreaming brain isn’t transiently affected by one of those mechanisms given the surreal nature of dream content and experience.  The transient nature of atonia relative to low prefrontal activation certainly seems to fit, in my opinion.​​


Edited by DrmDoc, 06 September 2015 - 08:35 AM.


#16 HydrogenBond

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 02:17 PM

An interesting thing to consider, is the internet. When we surf the internet, is not done in linear sequences like we do with books or like we do with our sensory systems, as we interact with tangible reality. Rather the web is surfed in a way closer to how dreams work; without order, as we move between links. 

 

If you we search for anything, there isn't one path. The search engines will generate endless paths. The first ten or so links/path are bought and sold, and will give preferred direction to our random march of the dream. The internet set up is not coincidental, because the unconscious dream mind is being projected as the template for information flow. 

 

The internet is also not totally trustworthy for information, because so much is not what it appears to be. There is not the same checks and balances one gets with eye to eye conscious contact. It contains unconsciousness, which may not seem kosher under conscious scrutiny. 

 

You cannot do a superficial physiological assessment of the brain to determine the things of consciousness, since one can;t even define consciousness by this to set a foundation. Real science of the mind has to go inside your own brain with your consciousness so it can observed how information moves. This is scary, so the science of the mind remains primitive. 



#17 DrmDoc

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:59 PM

You cannot do a superficial physiological assessment of the brain to determine the things of consciousness, since one can;t even define consciousness by this to set a foundation. Real science of the mind has to go inside your own brain with your consciousness so it can observed how information moves. This is scary, so the science of the mind remains primitive. 

 

 

If we accept dreams as an operative of consciousness or a cognitive process, I believe we can neurologically understand the distinctive qualities of that operative or process through a more objective approach.  Thought experiments, as I believe you are proposing, are inherently subjective when results are exclusive to or dependent on one’s own experience.  Personal bias and ideology color our perception and perspective whether or not we are cognizant of that influence.  I think it likely that the singular approach or experiences of one person will only yield results applicable to that person.  Some objective approach, irrespective of personal experience, is essential to the cogent and reliable evidence or results we seek.  For example, we’ve researched the role of prefrontal function in memory formation through various brain studies.  Given that role, we can objectively hypothesize that our prefrontal’s low activation amid dreaming likely contributes to our general lack of detailed dream recall. That low activation and consequential lack of detailed dream recall are distinctions of the unconscious state of the brain activation and cognitive process we call dreaming.  However, that doesn’t quite tell us what sort of cognitive process dreams reflect.  I think the answer to that query resides in what we already know about the dreaming brain.

 

We know that dreaming is a consequence of the metabolic processes we neurally experience in sleep.  This suggests that the brain activations precipitating dreaming are likely an aspect of some conservative, preservative, or restorative neural process.   The further inference here is that our dream recall, upon arousal from sleep, is likely how we consciously interpret the conservative, preservative, or restorative neural processes we experienced.  If our dreams interpret the neural processes of sleep, then the content of our dreams likely point to the areas or aspects of our brain receiving neural attention in sleep.  For example, memory consolidation, as a perceived function of dreaming, preserves and strengthens the neural pathways of recently learned experiences.  Dream recall regarding recently learned experiences informs us of which associated neural pathways our dreaming brain was attempting to preserve or strengthen amid its unconscious state.  I welcome your further thoughts.   





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