[Neuroscience] Dreaming well explained

Entertained by my own EIMC (AEVASIVE such) licenced at Fairyland.org
Wed Sep 6 22:45:00 EST 2006

S u m m a r y

  Revonsuo A & Valli K (2000)

  The Reinterpretation of Dreams

  An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming

  Psykologia 35:472-484. Vammala ISSN 0355-1067

  Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep 
physiology and 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 overrepresented. 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.

  Key words:

  Function of dreaming, dream content analysis, nightmares, evolution of 
consciousness, evolutionary psychology, threat perception.

  Antti Revonsuo, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Academy of Finland. Department of 
Philosophy, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, 
FIN-20014 Turku, Finland

  Katja Valli, M.A., Department of Philosophy, University of Turku, 
FIN20014-Turku, Finland.

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