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PodcastDo Our Dreams Have Meaning?

Do Our Dreams Have Meaning?

For centuries, people the world over have been fascinated by dreams, trying to interpret each astral event. But why do we have them and do they even mean anything?

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(soda can hisses) (computer mouse clicks) (bright music) Headspace Studios. (bright music continues) (gentle music) Hey there. It's Dr. Eric Prather, your resident sleep psychologist here. I'm back, this time with some interesting facts about what happens when we drift off to dreamland. And speaking of dreams, that's what this episode is all about. For centuries, people have been fascinated with dreams, why we have them, and whether or not they mean anything. So I'm gonna tell you what goes on in our brains when we have dreams, if there's any merit to dream interpretation, and why they can have such a hold on us even after we wake up. (gentle music continues) Dreams are like magic. You close your eyes and you're transported. Some of it is relevant to your life, some of it is not at all. And I think because humans want to try to understand their world and their existence, that brings up, what are these dreams? Like, I've had the same types of dreams that lots of people had. Like you're finishing college and, you know, it's the day of the test and it's a class that you haven't been attending the whole time and you just found out that there's an exam and you need to pass it to graduate. I mean, it's such a strange experience. And then I go and talk to my friends and family and colleagues and they're like, "Yeah, yeah, was it math?" And I was like, "No, it was Latin, but that doesn't matter." And it seems like it's just a very human thing. (gentle music continues) Sigmund Freud made an important contribution with respect to dreams in his 1899 seminal work, "Interpretation of Dreams," and he recognized that dreams were situated in the brain. Before that, cultures thought that dreams came from lots of places. Like the Egyptians thought that dreams came from the gods. But it was this appreciation that dreams were instantiated in the brain that was critical here 'cause then we could potentially study it. However, the interpretation of dreams is a bit more challenging, largely because there's lots of varieties of it and there's probably like general principles, certainly trauma comes up a lot in dreams, and that might be a reflection of daily experience or emotional concerns or content that's relevant to general people, but trying to interpret the meaning of those dreams is a lot more challenging and, in a lot of ways, is unprovable from a scientific perspective. And so it's been a really tough nut to crack making headway in what exactly dreams mean. (gentle music continues) Sleep has several stages that we go through and one of these is known as rapid eye movement sleep. And this is associated with the experience of dreaming. If you have someone sleep, and while they're in REM sleep, you look at what lights up in their brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, we see clear systems within the brain that...


Duration7 min

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