The Matt Walker Podcast

#19: Dreams - Part 2

April 11, 2022 Dr. Matt Walker Episode 19
The Matt Walker Podcast
#19: Dreams - Part 2
Show Notes

In the second episode of this series about REM sleep dreaming, Matt explores what the science has to say not only about how we dream at the brain level, but what it is that we dream about.  

Traditionally, civilizations such as those in ancient Egypt, believed that dreams were a form of divine intervention--a message from the heavens. Thereafter, Matt discusses Sigmund Freud, who introduced the notion of dreams originating from within the brain, not the heavens, and thus could be considered a science of the brain/mind. However, Freud went on to develop the (non-scientific) theory that dreams reflected the expression of our subconscious desires, but that those repressed wishes were transformed and disguised by the brain into a dream narrative.

Freud's theory suggests that, as we dream, our repressed wishes pass through a sensor in our mind, and then come out the other side as unrecognizable experiences to the dreamer.  Freud believed that he understood how the sensor worked and could decrypt the disguised dreams, and thus know something about his patients that he could share with them. Matt notes that Freud's theory could never be proven right, nor wrong, and also why we no longer consider it as a valid scientifically rigorous theory.

Next, Matt delves into modern-day scientific methods that have led to new theories of why we dream, including a theory that dreams are a replay of our waking life experience of our past memories. 

He recounts the work of his friend, Dr. Robert Stickgold, who found that only 1 to 2% of our dreams are really true clear replays of our prior waking life events. Matt also notes that, based on the same findings, there is a red thread narrative that runs from our waking lives into our dreaming lives = emotional concerns that we're having during the day, and the social individuals connected to those things.

Matt describes the latest research from a team in Japan that used MRI scans to predict the content of dreams. Matt postulates that science is getting ever closer to having the ability to know exactly what we are dreaming, and perhaps, take away ownership of the dream process from the dreamer itself.

Matt draws this episode to a close by asking some thought-provoking questions about whether we are truly responsible for what we dream about, and whether we should be held responsible for what we dream.

Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.

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