A&O – CONSCIOUSNESS – DREAMS

ART & ORGANISM

 

CONSCIOUSNESS

SLEEP is a normal alternate state of consciousness and the processes involved enable…

DREAMING


There are many levels of consciousness … As the brain changes are continuous, so do all these consciousnesses melt into each other like dissolving views.  Properly they are but one protracted consciousness, one unbroken stream.   (Wm. James, The Principles of Psychology, Ch. 9, 1890).   

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“Our life is twofold: Sleep hath its own world, / A boundary between the things misnamed / Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world, /   And a wide realm of wild reality, / And dreams in their developement have breath, /  And tears, and tortures, and the touch of Joy; … What are they? / Creations of the mind? – The mind can make / Substance, and people planets of its own / With beings brighter than have been, and give / A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.”  [read excerpt from George Gordon, Lord Byron 1816 with link to notes:  https://neilgreenberg.com/ao-excerpt-byron-on-dreams/]

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Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology    Dreams are a most remarkable experiment in psychology and neuroscience, conducted every night in every sleeping person. They show that our brain, disconnected from the environment, can generate by itself an entire world of conscious experiences. Content analysis and developmental studies have furthered our understanding of dream phenomenology. In parallel, brain lesion studies, functional imaging, and neurophysiology have advanced our knowledge of the neural basis of dreaming. It is now possible to start integrating these two strands of research in order to address some fundamental questions that dreams pose for cognitive neuroscience: how conscious experiences in sleep relate to underlying brain activity; why the dreamer is largely disconnected from the environment; and whether dreaming is more closely related to mental imagery or to perception.” (Yuval Nir and Giulio Tononi 2010 Complete essay HERE)


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This is the “activation-synthesis model”  referred to in a paper by Nir & Tononi’s paper from about 10 years ago.  You should check it out:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814941/ :

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Feb; 14(2): 88.   Published online 2010 Jan 14. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.001  PMCID: PMC2814941  NIHMSID: NIHMS165848  PMID: 20079677 

 APPRECIATE that many anomalies of dreaming (such as a feeling of falling or unable to move) may be because these usually synchronized processes can get a little out of synch.  ALSO, check into: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/10/scientists-identify-parts-of-brain-involved-in-dreaming

 


 

“The self-organization theory of dreaming proposes that the sleeping brain is a self-organizing system that can combine discontinuous and incongruous neuronal signals (i.e., different elements of dreams) into a relatively continuous narrative during sleep (Kahn and Hobson, 1993; Kahn et al., 2000, 2002). This theory also implies that dreams are not independently functional but rather a coproduct of the sleeping brain, reflecting the dreamer’s physiological and psychological activities such  as memory consolidation, emotion regulation, and reception of external stimuli “(Zhang, 2016)[i]  Read Zhang’s 2016 article, spelling out the converging influences on dreams and seeking reconciliation with FREUD’s View. 

  • Freud also believed that “Sources of dreams include stimuli from the external world, subjective experiences, organic stimuli within the body, and mental activities during sleep (p. 22). Zhang points out that “…empirical evidence has supported some of these assertions. The self-organization theory of dreaming posits that memory consolidation, emotion regulation, and reception of external stimuli can contribute to dream content (Zhang, 2016); hence, dream content can contain important information about the dreamer.”

A RELEVANT ASIDE ABOUT FREUD.  a practice close to the heart of phenomenology is “epoche” a kind of ‘bracketing,’–a setting aside of the burdens of acquired hypotheses and theory, of bias and expectations in order to enjoy a greater clarity of perception that might allows re-conceptualising major revisions of received theories. An large-scale example may be Freud’s setting aside his efforts at naturalizing psychology (“Project of a Scientific Psychology”[1]).  This enabled practitioners to better focus on securing immdiate remediation, recovery, and future welfare of specific subjects. 

 [1] “At the end of the 19th century, Freud sought to elaborate the assumptions of psychology as a natural science. This work became known as the “Project of a Scientific Psychology”, whose objective was to deal with themes hitherto discussed by psychology, however, using a neurophysiological language. However, due to the scientific limitations of the time, Freud migrated from the neurological model to a metaphysical model proposed in 1900, which allowed him to proceed with his theory of mind without the impasses of the neurology of the time.” de Souza 2020

 

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DREAMING evokes a diversity of important connections & questions. 

  • Where is the boundary between dream experience and waking experience? [read Byron, below]  Apparently we can dream while awake(?) act awake during sleep(?)  (these possibilities are strongly suggested by the occasionally anomalous or dysfunctional effects of sleep-aids such as zolpidem (=Ambien))
  • The idea that dreams are “assembled” from more-or-less random brain activity (especially in cortex) (cells are always active but do not always cross the threshold into an actual action) 
  • The idea that “random” brain activity generates percepts that interpreted much like a Rorschach image BUT WHICH ARE THEN assembled into a coherent (albeit often weird) narrative.  [go deeper: read Story Telling is Intrinsically Mentalistic 2018)]  and consider more-or-less of a pareidoliac perception (if that’s a real word)

The neurocognitive processes involved in “experience” of all kinds overlap so much that the idea that all perception and conceptions are more-or-less “true” hallucinations has gotten traction in some circles.. 

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Our life is twofold: Sleep hath its own world, / A boundary between the things misnamed / Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world, /   And a wide realm of wild reality, / And dreams in their developement have breath, /  And tears, and tortures, and the touch of Joy; …What are they? / Creations of the mind? – The mind can make / Substance, and people planets of its own / With beings brighter than have been, and give / A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.”  [excerpt from George Gordon, Lord Byron 1816 including notes]

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WORTH A READ!   Amongst my favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges’ writing had a dream-like quality and was himself deeply engaged by dreams.  Recently, Henry Eliot spoke to this in his essay, “Labyrinth of Dreams.”

 

 


NEXUS

CONSCIOUSNESS, and some of its states relevant to ART; then

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