All animals dream. Dreaming is a natural process of the brain.
The brain is a network of neural circuits that integrate and coordinate sensory data (our five senses,) and memory into a coherent picture of the world about us. Along with our sensory and memory circuits, we also have conscious circuits that coordinate our sensory and memory into a coherent response. When we sleep at night, our brain turns off our conscious circuits, allowing our physiology to repair, replenish, and replace damaged cells composing our bodily functions. Sleeping is a critical regenerative process.
The connections between neurons in our brains must activate every few hours to keep the neural connections alive. This neural activity is called the integrity process. The axons and synapses between neurons decay rapidly if they are not periodically active. Whether we are sleeping or awake, this background (subconscious) neural activity is constantly activating neural connections, keeping them functioning and ready if needed, and forming new associations as they occur. If this did not happen, the brain would not be able to make or break connections when it needed to, and ultimately would not be capable of neural plasticity.
When we sleep, our conscious circuits are deactivated. While we sleep, our conscious circuits too must be activated periodically to maintain their connection integrity. A dream occurs when our brain activates parts of our conscious circuits in the integrity process. Conscious circuits are designed to integrate sensory data and memory into a coordinated response. While sleeping, when partial conscious circuits activate, whatever background circuits are active, are perceived by the conscious circuits as real sensory data. That is why no matter how crazy a dream seems after the fact, while we are in the dream, we believe that the dream is true reality.
The purpose of our consciousness is to detect and react to environmental conditions. In a dream, when someone throws a ball at you, you react by trying to catch it. If the ball turns into a pumpkin before you catch it, you believe -- that is what balls do. You believe it because the parts of your consciousness that governs what is real or not are deactivated, leaving you to believe whatever the dream produces. As you are dreaming, if other background memory circuits activate, such as a memory of an aircraft wing, you may incorporate that into the existing scenario and find yourself playing pumpkin ball on the wing of a jet, flying high in the clouds. As well, the height might activate your fear-of-heights circuits and the dream takes another turn. Conscious circuits incorporate whatever data is active, and activate other memory circuits to formulate a functioning story. Because memory activates other memories, dreams can become extremely complicated scenarios.
Different conscious circuits can activate different memory circuits and formulate diverse types of dreams. Whatever conscious circuits are activated during the integrity process, and how they integrate between one another, along with what memory circuits they are activating, determines how the dream will formulate. Dreams can take on many types of expressions; some dreams are only physical sensations, while other dreams are only visual sensations, and many dreams incorporate both physical and visual sensations generating movie like realities. Dreams can be completely dissociated from reality, or have strong realism; it all depends on which neural circuits are activated in the integrity process, and what circuits they additionally activate. The sense of dreaming is always a case of one or more random conscious circuits being activated during the sleeping cycle. When no conscious circuits are activated, one does not dream. Most often, while dreaming, neural circuits responsible for formulating memory are turned off, but if dream events occur when the right conscious circuits are active, some permanent memories can form such as during a REM cycle.
New memory circuits are more active in the background integrity process than old memories. This is because new memories are the weakest until they have been reinforced enough through the integrity process to form permanent memory circuits. This is also why it is more common to have fragmented dreams about recent memories than old. However, it is largely by chance which memory circuits are active when we dream. At any one time, thousands of memory circuits are undergoing the integrity process; dreams are usually a mixture of new and old memories contorted into a story line.
A dream is only limited by our personal experiences stored within the memory circuits in our brain. In the case of reoccurring dreams, circuits related to the event are constantly activating in the background, a type of seizure disorder that occurs whether we are sleeping or awake. In the sleep cycle, when partial conscious circuits activate, dreaming repeatedly responds to the active seizure circuits. These types of reoccurring dreams can range between pleasant to night terrors.
Dreams can make unusual conceptual connections in formulating a rational scenario, connecting two seemly unrelated concepts into a new cohesive concept, which we would not have done while fully awake. Many people report that they have associated things in a dream that they would never have thought of while awake. Our dreams treat memory as if it is sensory data, and our partially activated conscious circuits try to formulate a coherent movie or simulation of life, generating the chaotic dynamics of a dream.
During sleep, all of our sensory and motor circuits are turned off, but if some of our motor circuits are activated in the integrity process, we can have motor responses such as jerking, sleep walking, or talking in our sleep. While sleeping, if other specific parts of our conscious circuits are activated, we can feel coldness, hear sound, or feel discomfort from laying in one position to long; allowing us to react to the stimulus by rolling over or pulling the blanket over us.
We have over two-hundred separate conscious circuits, each with specific functions in coordinating data and response. While sleeping, different groups of conscious circuits are activated in the integrity process, there is no precise order, just random activations. That is why no two dreams are alike. Occasionally, unique coordination/integration activate specific conscious circuits making connections that have beneficial attributes, such as making a realization or discovery that with full conscious connections would not have seemed rational and would not have normally occurred. While dreaming, many people remember the name of a childhood friend, which they have long forgotten and could not remember while awake. Dreams often access memories that we have consciously forgotten a long time ago.
Dreams are an elusive sense of 'reality' while we are dreaming. Scientists and philosophers have tried to decipher and formulate interpretations of dreams since the beginning of dreaming. Throughout human history, many have believed that dreams are a window into another world/reality. The true reality is that dreams are only a window into our own personal memory experiences. Dreams are solely dependent on our collective memory, a mosaic mixture of chaotic data bits, formulated into a mental story.
Many people believe that dreams are connected to an elusive life force. For example, when a plane goes down, some people believed they had dream premonitions of the event. What they do not recognize is that they dream every night, and only a few dreams in a lifetime will have similarity to a future event. With six to seven billion people dreaming every night, the statistical chance that one or more might have a dream with similarity to next day events is very high.
The brain has trillions of neural circuits, each processing specific sensory data like blue, red, the smell of strawberries, the feel of tree bark, etc, and integrating them into one another through secondary connections. While dreaming, these neural circuits have no governor to control what data is mix with other data. The results can sometimes be fascinating in what they conjure. The sensation of falling, or trying to run through what feels like thick honey-like air, or flying, are all astonishing experiences.
Drugs or near-death experiences induce the most vivid dream experiences. In these events, neural chemicals flood the brain and open all our neural circuits into a fantastic experience. People that experienced near-death dreams often talk about the profound level of knowledge that they feel during the experience. They talk about the vivid clarity, and the organizational connection between everything. Their experience is so profound that they do not think of it as a dream, but something more perceptive. In these dream groups, many have life altering experiences, and lose their fear of death altogether.
Presently, mainstream neural scientists are confounded as to the actual cause and nature of dreams. Many would be let down if they found out that dreams are only an unintentional byproduct of our memory circuits. Dreams tend to support our notions of heaven and other mystical conceptualizations, since both seem to be elusive out-of-body or otherworldly experiences.
Our brain has billions of neurons with trillions of axon connections. These trillions of axon connections are composed of hundreds-of-millions of specific neural circuits that correlate sensory and memory into response actions. At any one time, whether awake or sleeping, hundreds-of-thousand of neural circuits are momentarily activating in the integrity process. When we are awake, our conscious circuits ignore the background integrity processes, but when we are dreaming, partially activated conscious circuits pick up or perceive this neural activity as sensory data and try to formulate a functioning story.
When we are daydreaming or thinking, some of our conscious circuits are turned off allowing us to explore random possibilities, which are provided by the background integrity process. Out of the many thousands of random possibilities, a few may offer interesting associations that we call considerate thinking. Lucid dreaming occurs when enough conscious circuits are activated allowing us to partly consciously direct the dream. As well, drugs can partly turn on or off different conscious circuits, creating incredible sensations, visualizations, and perceptions from both the background integrity process and environmental stimulus such as music, conversation, or the activities of others.
If you research neural science and think about dreams as being an unintentional byproduct of our memory circuits, you will find that they are supported by absolute facts/data derived by EEG and FMRI experiments, and clearly explain the physical mechanics/nature of dreams. In totality, dreams are solely a byproduct of random neural activity; a cross wiring of unrelated and 'reactive' memories formulated into a semi coherent movie... we call a dream. The only real value a dream has is entirely subjective.
Additional data on 'Dreams/neurology' can be found in topics, The nature of "Light and Colors," and, The nature of "Time." As well, there is an enormous amount of data on the Internet with different perspectives. Research and learn about what it is to be human, and why we 'believe and behave' as we do. All you have to lose is ignorance.
A question never asked is worth nothing,
An answer never given is worth even less...
What are your opinions, comments, or questions?