Dreams have forever been a way for us to escape from reality into a perfect subconscious world created by ourselves. There have been plenty of times where I’ve woken up from the most pleasant dreams and tried to fall asleep again to complete them. Sometimes you’re able to hold on to them and remember every detail and sometimes the memory disappears as quickly as the morning comes. But what is it that makes our dreams possible you may ask? The simple answer is the cognitive function of memory.
According to Dreams and Memory, an article written by Patrick McNamara PhD. in 2013, dreams are nothing but fragments of memory being pieced together in your subconscious mind. Dreaming occurs when a person reaches rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep. It is theorized that while you’re in this stage your mind enters your memories and creates a dream narrative based off of your wishes, goals, subconscious feelings etc. No real studies have been done on the memory process and dreaming, only because your conscious mind uses memory as well. Therefore it’s hard to say memory is the sole cause of dreaming.
Dr. McNamara also went into detail about a fellow psychologist named Professor Sue Llewellyn, who proposed that the cognitive system in REM dreaming used the same ancient art of memory techniques which helped to improve memory. Basically, because REM dreaming uses episodic memory networks, semantic networks, dreams are retained in the hippocampus (the main center for memory), and not to mention, they allow for encoding during REM-NREM sleep cycles, they over all can improve and sharpen our memory. This theory has not been tested and proves to be quite difficult to test, but has opened the doors for a lot of discussion and new theories to come out of the psychology world. In fact there has already been debates about whether there is clear evidence to say loss of dreaming results in memory deficits. There have been studies on people who claim to have never had dreams and when tested have shown that their memories are intact. One of the difficult things about doing an experiment on this matter is the fact that it will be very hard to try and find someone who truly does not have the ability to dream.
Overall, I found this article to be very interesting and relevant because memories and dreams in my book go hand in hand. I’m always dreaming and recognizing either people I have seen or places that I’ve been in the past. I’ve always found it quite interesting that when you’re watching a movie or something before bed, even reading a book, something that is actively engaging your mind, your memory somehow holds on to it and is able to incorporate it into your dreams. Another thing that interests me about dreams is that fact that sometimes you can remember the entire thing vividly with no mistakes, but sometimes you can only remember small fragments of it and as the day goes on you lose those fragments as well. Because this article was not a research experiment, there were not many facts to report, it was mostly theories that different psychologist had on the matter. I thought it was a well informed and written article which was able to break down the theories so that the audience could clearly understand what was happening. But it did bring up a lot of good points and ideas to the table that we can think about in class when we talk more about memory and how it works. Dreams and interpretations of dreams will always be a mysterious topic for psychologist and scientist alike, but it’s because of that mysteriousness that makes the subject of dreams and memory even more exciting.