After waking up, the person talked about his subjective experience.

After waking up, the person talked about his subjective experience.

The most famous theory of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, says that dreams are a reflection of our hidden and suppressed desires that live in the subconscious. The neurocognitive theory (by the American psychologist William Domhoff) is based on the fact that dreams are composed of fragments of waking memories with a predominance of the emotionally significant aspect of these memories. According to the theory put forward by Zhang Jie, a Chinese psychiatrist, dreams reflect the process of memory consolidation, images from working memory appear in them as they pass into long-term memory. Finnish neuroscientist Antti Revonusuo believes that dangerous situations are modeled in dreams in order to work out the reaction to them.

Alan Hobson believes that dreams are just a byproduct of electrical activity in the brain.

All of the above and some other theories give dreams a certain meaning. On the contrary, the theory of the American psychiatrist Alan Hobson posits that dreams are just a side effect of the electrical activity of the brain. During REM sleep, a branched network of cholinergic neurons (using the acetylcholine neurotransmitter to transmit a nerve signal in synapses) is activated, the cortex tries to interpret this electrical noise and synthesizes dream plots. This view is also shared by one of the leading Russian specialists in sleep physiology, Doctor of Biological Sciences Vladimir Matveevich Kovalzon. He believes that dreams arise as an "epiphenomenon" of an actively working brain during REM sleep, when two or three of the ten activating systems of the brain remain in operation and all sensory inputs and outputs to the muscles are turned off.

The most detailed physiological hypothesis of dreams is proposed by Ivan Nikolaevich Pigarev, Doctor of Biological Sciences, a leading researcher at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is known for his original theory of the functional purpose of sleep, which is detailed in the aforementioned article in Chemistry and Life. In short, the essence of his "visceral theory" is that in a dream, our brain switches from processing signals from external stimuli to processing signals from internal organs – the digestive system, heart, endocrine system, etc. Do dreams fit into this picture? As Ivan Nikolaevich says, for a long time he was not even skeptical, but actively opposed to the study of dreams. But his very presence at the thematic conference speaks of a change in position. Now it is as follows: "If we propose a universal theory of sleep, then dreams as an obligatory phenomenon should be explained by this theory."

Ivan Nikolaevich Pigarev proposed the most detailed physiological hypothesis of dreams

This is the hypothesis of I. N. Pigarev. The cerebral cortex is considered as a universal computer that analyzes the input information, regardless of what information comes there. During wakefulness, neurons in the cortex analyze information about the environment from the receptors of the sense organs and send the result of its processing to structures associated with sensory perception. During sleep, these same neurons of the cortex switch to the analysis of information from interoreceptors in the internal organs. The result of its processing is sent to structures related to the management of internal organs. Access to structures associated with sensory perception is blocked in a dream. But, as Pigarev explains, if the signal is strong enough, it can cross the threshold and break through this blockage.

With an increase in the flow of nerve impulses from internal organs in the neurons of the cortex, high-frequency activity increases, and this impulse breaks through into the structures of sensory perception. Thus, a dream is triggered – visual and auditory images appear. The hypothesis also explains why the content of a dream is often associated with recent experience or emotional experiences in reality – because, first of all, the excitation of those neurons that were active during wakefulness crosses the threshold. And then associative connections begin to work, activating other neurons.

“Within the framework of this theory, dreams have no functional meaning,” sums up IN Pigarev. “Rather, they are mild and harmless sleep pathologies. But the fact that the most active images of previous wakefulness appear in dreams makes them, with reasonable interpretation, an effective tool in the hands of a neuropsychologist. "

Dreams as a psychoanalyst’s tool

Dreams are a reflection of reality. Reality is a reflection of dreams.

Sigmund Freud

Psychologists, and even more so psychoanalysts, by and large do not care by what physiological mechanism dreams arise in the brain. It is important for them that dreams are a window into the world of mental activity, into the area of ​​the unconscious, they reflect the mental state of a person, and they can be worked with to correct this state.

Elena Lisavtsova, currently practicing in Germany, spoke about how psychoanalysts work with dreams today. The analyst listens to the patient’s dream story and tries to interpret it. The purpose of interpretation is to endow incomprehensible, symbolic images of a dream with a more understandable meaning, transfer from the unconscious field to the conscious one. The plot of a dream is based on the remnants of daytime impressions, children’s, prelogical associativity of thinking, individual subjective experiences from the past, including traumatic, basic needs (for safety, love, food), reflection of actual fantasies, fears, desires. In classical psychoanalysis in a dream, a person’s drives are revealed, for one reason or another displaced from reality (according to Freud, these are drives of a sexual or aggressive nature). Such repression leads to an internal conflict, the search for which occurs during a psychoanalytic session. Modern psychoanalysis has a broader approach to interpretation. It is important for the psychoanalyst how a person tells his dream, what words and metaphors he uses, how he places semantic and emotional accents. He makes the patient an active participant in the process, encourages free associations caused by the dream. Ultimately, dream analysis should help a person solve a psychological problem through awareness.

Dreams from a linguist’s point of view

The original is incorrect in relation to the translation. Reality is one of the hypostases of sleep.

Jorge Luis Borges

Since a dream is assessed by the story about it, linguists play an important role in its analysis. Such a study, together with Elena Korabelnikova, was carried out by Vera Podleskaya, a specialist in the field of structural and applied linguistics of the Russian State University for the Humanities. This work compared the dream stories of children and adolescents – healthy and with neurotic disorders. The aim of the study is to understand if there are any indirect symptoms of neurotic disorder in the way children build their story. In an oral story about a dream, linguists are interested in its various aspects: the words used, prosody (sound parameters – timbre, tonal range), etc. In the analysis, the oral text is divided into small fragments, which linguists call "elementary discursive units." Grammatically, they most often correspond to simple sentences, pronounced within the same intonation contour (intonation first rises, then falls), and their length usually corresponds to the pauses that a person makes between breaths.

The linguist tells the story of a healthy child. “My class and I went somewhere, entered the house, there were steps and water. We got on a big raft and swam across to the other side. Then we went out the door – there was a door so yellow, we opened it and left. And we ended up at the fair. There were all kinds of toys, and the sellers were animals. Then we went through another door, there was a path, we walked along it and went to school. " This story is linguistically characterized by a flat narrative structure: it consists of several short, structured episodes that follow one after another in a chain.

And here is the sad story of a neurotic child. “I was at home with my mother, brother, well, I still dreamed of a cat there. For a long time I dreamed about how we were just at home, doing our business, then I felt something anxious, looked out the window – there was a fire truck at our entrance, I looked, the flame was blazing directly. Here. And I didn’t know what to do – my dad was gone. But for some reason it seemed to me that I had to decide everything, but did not know how to save us. That is, it would be possible to run up the stairs – the elevators could no longer work, but with my mother … my mother is sick. So I was tormented like that, then I woke up. " Of course, this dream also differs from the first in content. But this is what linguists see: there is no flat structure of the narrative, it branches deeper and more strongly, there are many connections of different levels in it. The focus of the story is not so much the chronological sequence of events as emotional experiences and analysis of possible consequences. Here there is frustration – an unfulfilled intention; an event from reality is introduced into a dream – "my mother is sick" …

Linguists have described the dream stories of children from the two groups in this way and compared them using some quantitative indicators. They made a significant difference: the stories of children with neurotic disorder were longer, their structure differed in a greater degree of branching and a greater depth of nodes. In addition, certain markers were more common in these stories. One of these markers, explains Podlesskaya, is the “but” union. From the point of view of a linguist, it is used when a certain habitual way of sequencing the realization of events or cause-and-effect relationships is violated. In neurotic stories, it occurs more often, because in them the inner conflicts of the speaker are manifested.

Lucid dreaming

– You will find him, how, – Ioannina sighed. – He, such an infection, remained in a dream. And the horror is that sooner or later I will fall asleep there again.

Max Fry, "Tales of Old Vilnius"

A lucid dream means a phenomenon in which a person realizes that he is dreaming and can even control it to a certain extent. This phenomenon was described in the 19th century, it was studied in detail by the American psychologist Stephen LaBerge, he also developed special techniques to learn lucid sleep. This method is used in therapy – for example, to relieve a person of obsessive nightmares. However, some people practice lucid dreaming just for the sake of unusual sensations – I ordered myself a dream as an exciting journey to other worlds, and watch a movie with your own participation!

Vladimir Matveevich Kovalzon shares the views of Hobson

True, most doctors and physiologists do not approve of such experiments: you can get hooked on this state like a drug, and it is not known how it will end. In addition, lucid dreaming is physiologically different from normal sleep. As Vladimir Kovalzon explains, in people who sleep "consciously", during the REM sleep phase, the dorsolateral part of the prefrontal cortex of the brain remains active, which is associated with consciousness. In normally sleeping people, it is inactive, even in REM sleep. Obviously, "lucid" sleep is not equal to normal sleep and does not give the body proper rest.

Vladimir Borisovich Dorokhov, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Laboratory of Sleep and Wakefulness Neurobiology at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about experimental studies of lucid dreams. The conversation continued in his laboratory, with the participation of Alexander Mironov – it was he who, a few years ago, as a graduate student, came here with the idea of ​​studying lucid dreams as an altered state of consciousness. The head of the laboratory had to defend this idea at the scientific council. Not everyone agreed that lucid dreaming is a phenomenon worthy of scientific research. As Vladimir Borisovich recalls, convincing the council members, he reminded the director of the institute, Pavel Miloslavovich Baloban, about the incident that happened during their student work in the construction brigade. The students witnessed two of their fellow students sleeping and having a common dream in which they had a meaningful conversation, discussing how best to carry a stretcher with concrete.

Vladimir Borisovich Dorokhov is interested in the problem of lucid dreams

The idea of ​​researching lucid dreaming was approved. As Alexander Mironov explains, first of all, it was necessary to experimentally confirm this phenomenon. Namely, to prove that during sleep the brain is capable of processing information, that external stimuli can be perceived and incorporated into the plot of sleep, etc. For this, scientists have developed a method of communication with a sleeping person. The equipment for the experimental study of lucid dreams was designed with the help of an employee of the laboratory, Gennady Troshchenko, who developed a device for recording breathing and rapid eye movements during sleep. To this was added a miniature amplifier for EEG registration. This equipment was needed in order to try to enter into a dialogue with the subject during lucid dreaming. In dialogue, the researcher uses the voice, and the sleeping person uses breathing and eye movements in a certain rhythm.

The pilot study involved one subject – an experienced "dreamer" with the skill of lucid dreaming. Sleep under the control of an EEG recorder and breathing and eye movement sensors occurred first in the laboratory, but then the scientists allowed the subject to sleep at home, in a more familiar environment (this is important for the quality of sleep). During the REM sleep stage, the subject listened to a recording of the instruction and had to complete a specific task, for example, solve a simple arithmetic problem. He gave the answer by the number of respiratory movements or eye movements, these movements were recorded by sensors. After waking up, the person talked about his subjective experience.

According to Alexander Mironov, the subject did not always respond to instructions. But even if he didn’t react, the instruction was embedded in his dream – for example, he dreamed “how some people on the street are swearing about numbers”. If a reaction came from the subject, then in 60% of cases he gave the correct answer in a dream. Upon awakening, he confirmed that he was aware of himself in the dreaming process and responded to external signals. Registration showed that when the subject responds to commands (that is, during lucid dreaming), the electrical activity of his brain increases in comparison with normal REM sleep, and a galvanic skin response also appears, which indicates a powerful emotional outburst.

Thus, the possibility of a dialogue in a dream was, in principle, confirmed. Experiments have shown that lucid dreaming occurs during REM sleep; that this is a more active state of the brain than just REM sleep, and that it is accompanied by a strong emotional response. To obtain more detailed information, scientists are going to improve their recording equipment and continue to work on a larger scale. The tasks planned for future experiments are to ask the subject during sleep questions about the content of dreams and get answers to them.