Video Friday: Mind Wandering and Dreaming

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Dreaming, a process in which our minds creatively combine elements of the day and other sensory experiences, during our sleep, is a hot new topic in topic in brain science. With our current technology, researchers are able to link activity patterns seen on neuro-imaging with sensory processing in the mind. Although currently the dreaming brain is an emerging science composed more of theory than evidence, the implications are interesting to explore.

Dreams have long been a realm of curiosity. In ancient times, dreams were the subject of shamanic interpretations in primitive societies. The Greeks ascribed a god to the area of dreaming, by the name Morpheus, who visited the dreamer during sleep and was in charge of the many smaller gods who brought messages to the dreamer. Sigmund Freud significantly influenced our modern interpretation of dreams, that within the events and images therein are revealed the deeper hopes and fears of the dreamer. Daydreaming has been a popular topic in neuroscience, more recently, with the act of daydreaming being linked to a widespread area of connectivity in the brain called the “default network”, or default mode network. Daydreaming has been shown to improve problem solving, with inhibition of daydreaming and thus default network activity, shown to decrease cognitive abilities and impeded problem-solving skills in study subjects (Christoff et al, PNAS 2009).

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