We may not be able to keep records of our night time imaginings, but we might be able to influence their contentby Philip Ball / October 23, 2014 / Leave a comment
In the movies—in films like Inception and Brazil—dreams look like, well, movies. But how much “visual” information do your dreams really contain? When you think about it, even familiar faces aren’t exactly “seen” so much as “sketched”— you know who they are because it’s your dream after all, not because you necessarily picture them in every detail. Do you actually “hear” what they say, or just somehow “know” it? Besides, dreams aren’t only or even primarily visual and aural. Often what strikes us most about a dream is the emotional aura, whether that’s fear, excitement or whatever. How could that ever be recorded in a “dream” home movie?
All the same, dreams can have extraordinarily precise content. Even if it’s a romanticized trope to be taken with a pinch of salt, people have found inspiration for songs, books and scientific theories in dreams. Perhaps you, like me, will have woken from dreams purely because you have become bored with their pedantic detail.
No one knows why we dream. One idea is that replaying events in the brain helps us to consolidate them in the memory—but of course many dreams are about things that never happened to us, or weird versions of things that did. Or maybe dreams serve no purpose, but are just the residual pr…