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An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming

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Hypnodude
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An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming
PostPosted: Thu 28 Nov, 2002  Reply with quote

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The reinterpretation of dreams: an evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming
Revonsuo A
Behavioral and brain sciences 23 (2000)

Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function. Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is consistently and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences. On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance. To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills. Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children's dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming.


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OpeNMeyeNd
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PostPosted: Tue 31 Dec, 2002  Reply with quote

Another interesting post, hypnodude. It makes sense to me. Pretty much every facet of the body and mind was used for survival at one time. There wasn't much else to do except die.

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FireHorse
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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jan, 2003  Reply with quote

Hi,
Interesting, this might explain why almost all my regular dreams are either threatening or sexual in their content.
Geez,I hope I don't have to confront a saber toothed tiger anytime soon!

Bye.


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the fool
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jan, 2003  Reply with quote

My personal experience with dreams has never been one of recurring, threatening experiences, though it seems that this is the case for many people. Consequently I've never really felt right about the concept of dreams as some kind of practicing space for waking life. My explanation for dreaming in an evolutionary sense would be that completely shutting down conciousness for the entire 8 hours needed to be completely rested is just too risky - we all know how groggy and unresponsive people can be at some stages of sleep. So, for extended periods during sleep, our conciousness is brought a little closer to the surface. In waking life, our concious perception of the world is built up from sensory information; during dreams, the slightly awakened conciousness is kept busy and alert by creating a model of reality from what it has access to during sleep - recent memories and imagination. We still have periods of almost complete shutdown, but during dreamtime we are still resting but are more ready and able to awaken quickly if there is any sudden threat in the real world. This makes more sense to me, but then I can only speak from my own experiences with dreams as being largely safe and unthreatening.

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FireHorse
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jan, 2003  Reply with quote

Sounds like a valid theory, although I dont think the two are mutually exclusive.

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the fool
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jan, 2003  Reply with quote

True, they aren't mutally exclusive. I guess what I was aiming to say is that I've never felt that the fundamental point for dreams existing was as a training ground for RL, though that may indeed play a part.

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FireHorse
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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jan, 2003  Reply with quote

Point taken.

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Dysamalex
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

the fool wrote:
My personal experience with dreams has never been one of recurring, threatening experiences, though it seems that this is the case for many people. Consequently I've never really felt right about the concept of dreams as some kind of practicing space for waking life.


I don't think there has to be imminent threat involved for the "practice space theory" to be relevant. For instance, people dream a lot about social situations in different combinations and variations. These are important even though they might not be threatening, because social manoeuvring has very likely played a huge role in human evolution.


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Sentient
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...
PostPosted: Thu 05 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

Ive always wondered about this too. One question ive asked myself is if human intelligence/awareness has anything to do with it. Do animals dream the same amount (or something)? I know that animals sleep a lot more, but do they dream? It may be interesting to note dream (like REM or something) differences between animals of the same species in the wild and in domestic houses. *on an amusing side note, i originally typed WILD instead of wild*

I think its widely accepted that physically, sleep is for energy conservation, restoration of such and the body itself. Mentally, it gets vague of course, which is a reason i ask myself if intelligence has anything to do with it, one way to see is by differences, etc. Ah well without data im getting nowhere. smile

Training grounds, yeah that does make some sense. Factoring intelligence in, the differences between humanity and the animal kindom (humans preoccupied more with themselves, animals more preoccupied with the environment and all other animals) it makes sense. Perhaps the equivalent of 'threatening situation' for us is stuff like human interaction, love, learning, pondering the nature of our existence. While, in the past, when we were closer to animals, it was stuff like sex, defense, food, basic threatening situations (of which civilization has had to worry about less and less, except for like war and the general darkness of the population i.e. each other rather than entirely different animal species, but i digress). Then again, how do i know for sure what we dreamed long, long ago... ^^


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Dysamalex
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

I read somewhere that the amount of dreaming in a species is related to how developed the animal is when it is born. The more helpless it is, the more it will dream throughout its life.

But, according to the same website, dreaming is not related to intelligence, which is perhaps a bit surprising. If I find it again, I'll post the link.


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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

Pr Laberge has another evolutionnary explanation on Lucidity.com, which pleases me more. I'll find the link one day.

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Dysamalex
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

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REM sleep amounts also vary across animal species, depending on the size of the animal and its level of development at birth. The size of an animal seems to affect the type of sleep it experiences?small animals tend to spend more time in REM sleep. Animals that are born in relatively helpless states, such as opossums and humans, generally have more REM sleep as newborns than animals that can hunt, eat, keep warm, and defend themselves soon after birth, for instance guinea pigs or horses. Even as animals age into adulthood, those born relatively immature continue to spend more time in REM sleep than animals that are mature at birth.


One of the myths about sleep is that smarter animals spend longer periods in REM sleep. REM sleep amounts in humans or primates?believed to be the most intelligent members of the animal kingdom?are not remarkably high or low. Rather, they seem to fit the general rule of level of maturity at birth. REM sleep amounts in whales and dolphins?animals also recognized for their high intelligence?are among the lowest seen in any mammal. These animals, both born relatively mature, also seem to fit the general rule relating REM sleep amounts to level of maturity at birth.


Hey found it. This quote comes from this site: http://www.npi.ucla.edu/sleepresearch/encarta/MediaMa x3.htm


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Jack
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

I remember reading it before.If so it seems that REM was given to us as "training ground" to learn about many possibilities in life.
Then again.....if thats correct,either nature is damn smart or theres really god behind it.


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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2004  Reply with quote

I found it. There is a link towards some hypotheses about dream functions and meaning.
http://www.lucidity.com/LD8DFM.html
In chapter "The Functions Of Dreaming And The Advantages Of Consciousness", you can find Dr Laberge's evolutionnary theory.


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