A Way of Promoting Wisdom?
“These activities may contribute to or reflect the result of the memory consolidation process.” – as written by Wilson and Ji in the study, From Nature Neuroscience research journal online edition, 12-17-2006
Another captivating theory of dream analysis is the modern idea that actions performed in our conscious life are being replayed in our dreams, helping us to process the information at a level that is not distracting and provide wisdom to our waking life.
Neuroscientist Matthew Wilson claims that the neurons fired during our conscious experiences of daily life are repeated when sleeping (Louie, 2001).
Wilson conducted a study involving the observation of brain patterns in rats during a sleeping state shortly following a task presented in their awake state.
The rats were trained to run in circles on a track (motivated by a food reward) and he monitored their brain activity in the hippocampus (area related to memory) during this time. As they slept, they noticed that the same distinct patterns of neurons were firing as when they were running in the maze. What is even more astonishing is that the memories were played at approximately the same speed as the speed of the experienced action, therefore indicating whether the rat was at a stand-still or actively moving during its dreams (Louie, 2001)
In the original study, researches were unsure whether the rats were literally visualizing the maze in there dreams. This is because they were only able to see the activation in the hippocampus, which is the center for the brains memory, but not in SPECIFIC visual areas of the brain.
However, in the past experiment the researchers were able to identify activation in the visual cortex, strongly indicating that the rats are indeed seeing pictures as they dream.
Wilson also found evidence that long-term memories may be formed during the time of REM sleep, when humans do most of their dreaming. He has found that the repetition of objects or events during a dreaming state is encoded differently in our hippocampus than things not repeated when dreaming.