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Why Do We Dream? To Ease Painful Memories, Study Hints

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by micropage7, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. micropage7

    micropage7

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    A military guard sleeps in the ruins of Hatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Iraq, in an undated picture.

    In a recent experiment, brain scans of people who viewed emotionally provocative pictures and then went to sleep showed that the part of the brain that handles emotions powered down during rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep—the stage in which dreams occur.

    What's more, the subjects reported that the images had less of an emotional charge the morning after. This suggests that REM sleep may help us work through difficult events in our lives, the researchers say.

    Why we sleep is still unknown, and even more elusive is the relationship between sleep and our emotional well-being, said study leader Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

    (Read about the mysteries of why we sleep in National Geographic magazine.)

    There's already anecdotal evidence for sleep's therapeutic benefits—such as the oft-repeated adage that a person will go to bed and feel better in the morning, Walker said.

    And clinical data show that psychiatric mood disorders, from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder, can lead to sleep abnormalities.

    "Despite that suggested interplay, we've understood remarkably little about the basic brain science that may underlie a relationship between our emotional lives and our sleeping lives," he said.

    As his new research now suggests, "it's not time that heals all wounds—it's REM sleep."

    Sleeping on It Helps

    For the experiment, Walker and colleagues divided 34 healthy young volunteers into two groups. People in each group viewed and rated their reactions to 150 images shown at 12-hour intervals while an MRI scanner measured brain activity.

    The pictures, which have been used in hundreds of studies, ranged from bland objects—i.e., a kettle on a counter top—to gory pictures of people maimed in accidents, Walker said.

    One group viewed the pictures in the morning and again in the evening without sleeping in between. The other group saw the same images before a full night of sleep and again the next morning.

    The volunteers who slept between viewings reported a much milder emotional reaction to the images after the second viewing.

    (See "Dreams Make You Smarter, More Creative, Studies Suggest.")

    MRI scans performed during REM sleep revealed that brain activity fell in the amygdala—the emotion-processing part of the brain—possibly allowing the more rational prefrontal cortex to soften the images' impact. (See an interactive brain map.)

    In addition, recordings of the subjects' electrical brain activity during sleep made with electroencephalograms showed a decrease in the levels of brain chemicals linked to stress.

    When people experience an emotional event, stress chemicals are released to flag and prioritize that event, essentially reminding the brain to work through it during sleep, according to Walker, whose study appeared November 23 in the journal Current Biology.

    "Somewhere between the initial event and the later point of recollecting, the brain has performed an elegant trick of divorcing emotions from memory, so it's no longer itself emotional," Walker said.

    "That's what we mean by overnight therapy."
    from national geographic
     
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  2. theJesus

    theJesus

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    This probably explains why I like to sleep a lot when I'm depressed :laugh:

    I'm curious how nightmares affect this though.
     
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  3. Drone

    Drone

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    On the contrary old memories won't ever let me sleep :confused:
     
  4. theJesus

    theJesus

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    That's what made me comment about nightmares. I know plenty of people whose painful memories cause nightmares, which obviously don't ease the pain.
     
  5. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    :confused: We know the reason why we (and all mammals) sleep: it is a time when the body basically goes into repair mode fixing damaged tissues (like muscle tissue from exercise or injury as well as for fighting off infections). On the other hand, if you never sleep, the body can't repair itself and something will eventually give from cellular breakdown.


    The brain, on the other hand, categorizes and stores short term memories into long term memories. Dreams occur when you wake up preemptively during that process. This is also why dreams are usually a jumbled mess--the brain doesn't transfer from short to long in chronological order. The order it does it is largely unknown.

    As other's pointed out, I think the results will vary on who you study and how they cope with trauma. Recurring nightmares are something of a mystery but your random nightmare is likely the result of what you "saw" as a memory transferred. If it is something you fear--it'd likely be considered a nightmare.
     
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  6. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    Is that a fact.

    http://boingboing.net/2008/05/10/threeyearold-boy-has.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Herpin

    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/sci...y-wright-randy-gardner-david-blaine-2855.html


    I'm not claiming they don't have some sort of "hidden" function that they are not aware they are sleeping, but one would think "dozing off" for a few minutes every now and then would at least result in some kind of injury. Surely, the body doesn't care what "you" are up to if it feels the need to sleep. Take it from someone who fell asleep behind the wheel :rolleyes:
     
  7. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    Tired driving is as bad or worse than drunken driving.
     
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  8. theJesus

    theJesus

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    I haven't tried driving drunk, but my job has had me driving extremely tired on multiple occasions and it's scary as fuck, especially in traffic.
     
  9. Widjaja

    Widjaja

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    I don't know about this.

    I have had some traumatic experiences and it only took time to get over them.
    At random or due to someone marginal, it can trigger the recollection of the event(s) in dreams further on down the track.

    Seeing the image of the soldier, my Father admitted to me, for a long time after the war he was in, he was still getting a reoccuring memory of things he experienced.
     
  10. BlackOmega

    BlackOmega

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    While they may have a condition that does not allow them to sleep, However, I am willing to bet that they day dream often. Daydreaming is technically classified, according to my psychology teacher, in the same category as sleep.
    When you're awake, if you haven't gotten enough rest the night before, then your mind will lapse into daydreams. These daydreams allow your brain to sort through events that may have occurred throughout your day. It also uses this time to sort through and decide what it's going to transfer into long term memory and what its going to discard.
     
  11. AphexDreamer

    AphexDreamer

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    I figured this out a long time ago... I mean I'll go to sleep sad or stressed out from a long day of BS and wake up feeling refreshed.

    Should have made a well documented study of my findings... crap.
     
  12. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    I've done both. Only one resulted in a crash. And might I add, from my experience, people should be more mad at you for driving under the influence of sleep deprivation...
    As a side note, I wont say "I'm not proud to have DUI [of alcohol]", because I really do believe that being tired is a lot worse for countless reasons. In retrospect I might go so far as to say my judgement was more impaired tired than while drunk, but maybe that's just me.
     
  13. brandonwh64

    brandonwh64 Addicted to Bacon and StarCrunches!!!

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    Reminds me of so many nights in the sandbox :(
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. NdMk2o1o

    NdMk2o1o

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    Did my first stint of motorway driving in the dark, early hours last week for work, it was 06:30am and completely pitch black when I joined the motorway yet really busy and I had only had maybe 5 hours sleep, needless to say it definately took a lot more concentration than usual so I can only guess how bad it would of been with no sleep.
     
  15. theJesus

    theJesus

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    You're probably right. I normally refuse to drive when I'm that tired, but when I'm on call and my boss tells me to get my ass somewhere, he doesn't give a flying fuck whether or not I'm tired because I'm getting paid to be available for immediate dispatch.
     
  16. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    He'll be sorry if you do crash. I hit a semi head on at about 50mph. By some miracle, I only broke two toes and got some minor scrapes on my face and left arm and a small gash on my left knee. Since then I always tell people who do stupid stuff that seemingly insignificant choices can make an enormous difference in, not only your life, but your entire family and friends lives..
     
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