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Comparison of physiological and psychological approach to dreams

By Gokce Gokalp Spring, 1999 Early scientists and philosophers saw sleep as a passive condition where the brain is isolated from the other parts of the body.

The Interpretation Of Dreams Revisited

Alcmaeon claimed that sleep was caused by the blood receding from the blood vessels in the skin to the interior parts of the body.

Aristotle suggested that while food is being digested, vapors rise from the stomach because of their higher temperature and collect in the head. As the brain cools, the vapors condense, flow downward and then cool the heart which causes sleep.

With the discovery of brain waves and later the discovery of electroencephalogram, the way sleep was studied changed forever. Electroencephalogram or EEG made it possible for sleep researcher to record the electrical activity of the brain during sleep.

Stages of Sleep EEG recordings show that we go through five stages of sleep each with its characteristic brain-wave activity. Stage 1 is the transition stage from wakefulness to sleep and is identified with theta waves and last between 1 to 7 minutes.

The Activation-synthesis Model Of Dreaming

In stage 2 EEG recordings show fast-frequency burst of activity called sleep spindles. In stages 2 through 4 muscle tension, heart rate, respiration, and temperature gradually decline, and it becomes more difficult to be awakened.

In this stage EEG recordings show delta waves and it is the deepest stage of sleep. There is a marked secretion of growth hormone in stage 4.

Dreams may have an important physiological function

Sleep researchers determine what sleep stage a person is in by the ratio between the number of sleep spindles and the number of delta waves Munglani and Jones, 1992. Here EEG tracings look exactly like the beta waves that are observed when we are completely awake. In fact, brain-imaging studies show that the neurons in the cerebral cortex become much more active during REM sleep Munglani and Jones, 1992.

We go through this sleep cycle 5-6 times during 8 hours of sleep Plotnik, 1993. Jouvet's Model of Sleep Michel Jouvet has shown that changes in EEG activity during sleep is due to alternating activity of the raphe nuclei and the locus coeruleus.

According to Jouvet the onset of sleep is due to increased activity of the raphe nuclei which secrete serotonin when active. The locus coeruleus which secretes norepinephrine when active, increases REM sleep.

Physiology and psychology of dreams.

The activity of these two sites alternate, which could account for the fluctuation between deep and light sleep throughout the night. Since Jouvet's research, several neurotransmitters have been identified that are involved in the control of REM sleep.

  1. I believe that dreaming is the sometimes outward sign of a genetically determined, functionally dynamic blueprint of the brain designed to construct and to test the brain circuits that underlie our behavior-including cognition and meaning attribution.
  2. Imagine your favorite cat living on the other side of a tall fence that protects it from a vicious dog.
  3. And yet, if a poem or a dream calls out to you to interpret it, by all means find out what it means. Circadian Rhythm When a biological clock, in this case the sleep-wake cycle, is set for about 25-hour period it is referred to as the circadian rhythm.

The reticular formation in the hindbrain helps regulate REM sleep and according to Kalat 1995when the reticular formation receives electrical stimulation, a sleeping person wakes up. It is known that body temperature controlled by the hypothalamus plays an important role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.

  • According to Jouvet the onset of sleep is due to increased activity of the raphe nuclei which secrete serotonin when active;
  • We know today that the nervous system contains two types of nerve cells excitatory and inhibitory;
  • These disorders may indicate an underlying psychological condition, or a problem with processing in the brain;
  • Skinner Behavioral Approach Those that take the behavioral approach agree to the idea that it is best to concentrate on behavior that can be observed Feldman, R;
  • This is a relatively new approach to psychology, but not necessary to dreaming;
  • To some, they are considered an abnormal pattern to sleep and dreaming.

So a combination of physiological factors, brain areas, and neurotransmitters seems to be responsible for controlling falling asleep and waking up Plotnik, 1993. Why Do We Sleep? There are three important factors that determine when we fall asleep: Circadian Rhythm When a biological clock, in this case the sleep-wake cycle, is set for about 25-hour period it is referred to as the circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythms control the rise and fall of physiological responses such as temperature, and the start and stop of responses like going to sleep and waking up. This rhythm is due to some rhythmical activity of the hypothalamus. Environmental Arousal When our body is in a state of high arousal, we cannot sleep or we have trouble staying a sleep.

Stress, excitement, and drugs that increase arousal can interfere with the onset of sleep as well as staying a sleep. Sleep Deprivation When we are deprived of one night's sleep, we go to sleep sooner and stay asleep longer, but there are no physical or behavioral changes. Sleep deprivation can effect task performance. It was found that when the task at hand was boring, performance declined even after just a few hours of sleep deprivation Babkoff et al.

The Psychology of Dreams

Babkoff and his colleagues 1992 also found that when the task is difficult, performance drops after moderate sleep deprivation. Motivation plays a role as well in that when a person is not highly motivated, sleep deprivation effects performance Dinges and Kribbs, 1991.

Babkoff and his colleagues 1992 in a later study tested the effectiveness of the stimulant drog pemoline for maintaining accurate performance on a variety of cognitive tests during a 64-hour sleep deprivation period.

They found that the drug was effective in maintaining performance speed but findings on the accuraccy of performance were not clear. The above factors explain what determines when we will fall asleep. But the question of why we sleep still isn't answered. There are two different theories of why we sleep: Repair Theory According to this theory activities during the day deplete key factors in our brain or our body that are replenished and repaired by sleep.

This comparison of physiological and psychological approach to dreams makes sense since during stage 4 sleep there is a marked secretion of growth hormone, controlling many aspects of metabolism, physical growth, and brain development. The finding that after having been sleep-deprived for a long period, people tend to sleep longer when they have the opportunity Moorcroft, 1993 also supports the repair theory.

Adaptive Theory This theory states that sleep evolved because it prevented early humans and animals from wasting energy and exposing themselves to dangers of predators. It was necessary for their survival.

REM Sleep Deprivation People who are deprived of sleep for one or more days show almost no physical or behavioral changes. This is referred to as REM rebound. He argues that depression results from excessive neural disinhibition during REM sleep.

REM dissipates too much accumulated neural excitability, so if the depressives are deprived of REM sleep discharge of neural excitability is prevented, making depressed people more sensitive to their drive states. They would then engage in behaviors that produce rewards, that are "healthy", causing them to experience positive affect Franken, 1988.

On the other hand, Ford and Kamerow 1989 found that people who complain from insomnia for a period of one year are twenty times more likely to develop a serious depression than those who do not suffer from insomnia. Some animals have really interesting sleeping styles. Some birds sleep for brief periods with one eye closed and for that short moment it is suggested that one hemisphere of the brain shows waves that indicate sleeping, and the other shows signs of wakefulness.

Chapter 8: Dreaming: Function And Meaning

Elephants sleep for 3 to 6 hours, of which two hours are spent standing. The dolphin sleeps with only half of its brain while the other half remains alert.

  1. In the view of Dr. Random electrical impulses and firing during sleep, trigger the brain to remember certain memories Feldman, p.
  2. To what degree, and in what way, implications can be drawn from these findings for the psychology of dreaming is controversial.
  3. Retrieved September 30, 2009, from Research Library.
  4. This theory makes sense since during stage 4 sleep there is a marked secretion of growth hormone, controlling many aspects of metabolism, physical growth, and brain development. According to both approaches, dreaming is about the self and always has to do with the individual having them.
  5. The theory is the idea of activation-synthesis.

The two hemispheres alternate every one to three hours during sleep. Dolphins kept in aquariums usually swim in circles, in the same direction during sleep. The World of Dreams Whether we'd like to admit it or not, whether we are able to remember them or not, we all dream. Content of NREM dreams is often a recreation of some psychologically important event.

According to Comparison of physiological and psychological approach to dreams REM dreams are like primary-process thinking which is often unrealistic and emotional, and NREM dreams are like secondary-process thinking which is more realistic Franken, 1988. According to Freud, we dream to satisfy unconscious desires or wishes, especially those involving sex and aggression. If we were to fulfill these wishes during day time it would create too much anxiety.

Freud stated that the wishes are represented with symbols since they would otherwise be anxiety producing. Based on this theory a therapist must interprete these symbols to help clients discover unconscious desires. Activation Theory states that the hindbrain transmits chaotic patterns of signals to the cerebral cortex, and then higher-level cognitive processes in the cerebral cortex try to integrate these signals into a dream plot Hobson and Stickgold, 1995.

Dreams can also be viewed as extensions of waking life, which include thoughts and concerns especially emotional ones. Then, in a sense dreams provide clues to the person's problems, concerns, and emotions Plotnik, 1993. Dreaming sounds like it is the best part of sleeping.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the reasons for sleep and dreams, their exact functions, and how physiological processes are involved. But we know a lot more than we did at the beginning of the century.