• Question: how and why do you dream ?

    Asked by ro to Roisin, Michel, Gavin, Karen, Mark on 7 Nov 2016. This question was also asked by 455xygg52.
    • Photo: Michel Destrade

      Michel Destrade answered on 7 Nov 2016:

      Dreams are hard to study, since you must be awake to answer questions about them! However, the brain imaging techniques are getting better and better and maybe soon it will be possible to link some brain activity to a specific dream. In any case we cannot live without dreaming. This was proved a while back with the following experiment (but don’t read on if you think experiments should not be conducted on mice).

      Put a mouse on a small piece of wood floating on water. The platform is so small that the mouse can’t lie down and has to stay on all fours to keep its balance. They eventually fall asleep and can’t dream because then their muscles relax and they fall in the water and have to climb back on the platform. So their sleep is dreamless only. They eventually die. So no dreaming = death (cruel experiments, I know!)

      So even if you think you didn’t dream last night, you definitely did! You just forgot the dream.

    • Photo: Roisin Jones

      Roisin Jones answered on 8 Nov 2016:

      I think Michel has covered this in more depth than I would actually be able to, while I’m fascinated by neurology, it’s more a pop interest than a specialty, so I don’t know a lot of detail. The only thing I can add is that it’s hypothesised that we dream to reinforce our brains ability to recognise and experience appropriate emotions! There’s also a very rare syndrome called Charcot-Wilbrand syndrome (usually arises due to brain damage) in which patients are either partially or totally unable to dream, and it often leads to problems with mental health coupled with hallucinations.