Recently, I had a dream about a friend. She’s been on exchange for a while now. I had talked to her regularly, but due to some technical issues we’ve been out of touch for a while. The dream went like this…
Like any dream, I found myself in a foreign land, but I knew that I was in England, having arrived on a plane just hours ago. It was a rainy day. With only the clothes on my back, and no idea where I was, I wandered around aimlessly. Not long after, I ran into her. Funnily enough, I had a feeling I would run into her. I never doubted that I would get lost.
Next thing I knew we found ourselves on an oval, running around and generally being jovial. But of course rain and oval = mud, and inevitably, that mud was soon all over me. With no extra luggage, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I dried myself off, but there was still the problem of the dirt. I had to get some new clothes! So together, we went to a market to do some shopping. The market we appeared in was much like your average open market (very reminiscent of the Glebe area for Sydnersiders). I bought myself some new threads, and since we were there, we went for a wander around. There were a lot of random cool stuff there like nerf guns (those things are awesome!) Yes it was a somewhat strange market.
After fixing my lack of clean clothing issue, I hung around her uni campus. The next few days were a bit hazy, but not much really happened. All I did was look at the cool techs that our uni didn’t have and go to a couple of interesting talks. After a short week, I took the ~24 hour plane ride back home.
That was a really intense dream, and I woke up feeling like I’d actually just met up and hung out with her. I’m sure a dream reader would have a field day explaining this one to me, something about repressed desires. But I know there’s a different explanation which relates to neuroscience and the way our senses work.
Our senses work through our brain interpreting electrical signals that come from our sensing organs: our ears, our eyes and our nose. When we’re awake, these organs are getting information and sending them to the brain. But when we’re asleep, we’re generally in a quiet environment where these senses aren’t activated. Without these signals, our brains are left with these signals called noise. Think of it like the static on your tv screen or radio.
Now here’s the funny thing about our brain, it doesn’t seem to stop working. It’s trained to continuously make meaning out of the signals it gets. When it gets signals that don’t make sense, it’ll try and fill in the gaps. From a completely random picture like static, your brain will weave a coherent picture by picking elements from your memory that might fit together into the story. It’s through this extrapolation that dreams are formed.
Of course, this is just a theory. It does seem to make sense, since my dream did have a lot that was familiar to me, even though the overall experience was completely unique to me. I’m around Glebe a lot and I do love nerf guns. Most importantly, the dream was based around this friend, who I do miss very much. Whether or not my dream had any meaning or not, the most important thing was, it made me feel happy when I woke up.
For a more detailed explanation of this perspective on dreams, see page 59-62 of Masao Ito’s ‘Cognition, Computation and Consciousness’. For the more recent theory which includes the relationship between dream content and external stimuli during sleep, see page 311 of Robert Stickgold’s ‘The Neuroscience of Sleep”.
Tells us about your wacky dream in the comments below. (Noby always has crazy dreams – tell us a story Noby!)