We talk a lot about dreaming as a developmental skill at Dreaming For Gamers. If you haven’t read my post on healthy sleep and memory, I recommend reading through it as it clearly presents an argument that brain function like dream-recall can be improved with training.
Why healthy sleep is important for learning, memory, cognitive health, and dreams.
You will often hear me say, we are an active dream programming school that focuses on developmental dreaming as cognitive skill and functional dreaming. I cover this is the first video for our first course on dream memory and recall and the benefits of dreaming.
[DMRU01] The Benefits of Dreaming – Dreaming For Gamers
In the free course set, we focus on the weakest regions of the brain where the loss of brain function, stunted development or atrophy has occurred impeding several functions of dreaming such as dream recall, five-sensory replay, and self-awareness. Many people who come to the courses are in various degrees of stunted dream development. Several have had no dream-recall in over a decade, the longest being two decades.
Often they have stunted sensory-replay where only visual/audible dreams are present and the absence of touch/taste/smell is noted in their dream-replay. One student in their 50s loved their dreams, but never encountered information that provided advice on having five-sensory replay as part of their dream development and thought dreams were audible/visual only lacking the other senses spanning 30 years of their practice.
It took them a week to rehabilitate touch (dreaming is developmental so no short-cuts exist for instant results). Another week for taste. Another week for smell. Well, what a nice recovery when your approach these developmental issues through proper training. Several others also improved dream fidelity and sensory replay through training. The oldest student was 70 and hadn’t recalled dreams in over two decades and was able through active training rehabilitate dream recall. (No galantamine, no drugs, no supplementation as we are drug-free, and I have never endorsed or used drugs for dream development.)
Many lack higher-brain function development for self-awareness and those who have trained through these courses have seen rehabilitation and development gaining functional skills for self-aware dream-replay. Why? We use simulation training, training tools, activities that promote dream development. That’s how skill development works. We train, we learn and we develop towards results.
The brain develops neural pathways for any skill we learn. The more we use a skill, the more neural pathways strengthen. Activity in a skill favors neural-pathway development for those neural-pathways vs non-participatory neural pathways. With any new skill, we require more focused attention until these neural pathways strengthen until the skill becomes more automatic. Training in any skill makes the skill more functional.
Hippocampal-replay coordinates sensory-replay such as vision in which visual memory presents itself in both premediate rest and dreams. The premediate effects of visual replay have been observed with video games such as Tetris. In 1994, Jeffery Goldsmith published an article in Wired magazine called, “This is your brain on Tetris” where long hours of playing Tetris resulted in visual-replay of the game during rest and premediate sleep. This highly-visual effect is visual-memory in replay. Not a hallucination.
However, sensory replay is not limited to just vision. We have five senses that can all present during premediate rest towards sleep which is has been called hypnagogia in which other senses such as hearing, touch, taste, and smell can present. Which for a long time due to a misunderstanding was viewed as hallucinations and even a mental disorder and is still viewed by some that this is the correct assumption to the point they try to treat natural occurring hippocampal replay clinically. Strangely enough, drug use and certain medicines cause problematic hypnagogia as substances also affect dreams. See a correlate there? Natural hippocampal-replay producing sensory-replay as part of natural sleeping patterns vs substance-induced hippocampal-replay producing hallucinatory problematic hypnagogia that can become clinical? Is there a difference? Absolutely!
But that’s another problem with dream culture we do have the drug cults totting this is the way to magic dreaming. Maybe we can clear this misconception and error through modern-day neuroscience as understand this is how sensory-replay for memory-consolidation emerges as a sensory model for dreaming as proper brain function and drug use and stimulants that invoke hallucinations are the problem. That healthy drug-free dreaming is an actual thing.
Let’s first look at how sensory-memory works in the brain. In recent studies on sensory memory, it was discovered that in the five-sensory model, only the senses we gave attention to send memory of that sensory-experience to short-term memory. Other research concludes that sensory memory is stored in or near the sensory regions of the brain. Could this explain why some people lack certain faculties of sensory-replay during dreams?
We have five sensory inputs for vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell. We have five sensory-memory models Iconic (vision), Echoic (hearing), Haptic (touch), Gustatory (taste) and Olfactory (smell) and hippocampal-replay coordinates with these systems as part of memory-consolidation.
In dream neuroscience studies the brain becomes very active during REM sleep. If we chart through hippocampal-replay and the neocortex what sensory regions become active during REM and sleep, we can see this involves the visual-cortex (vision/iconic), the audio-cortex(hearing/echoic), the somatosensory/parietal lobe(touch/haptic), the orbitofrontal cortex/fronto-insular cortex (taste/gustatory) , and the orbitofrontal cortex, olfactory cortex(smell/olfactory) and the limbic system
Our dreams present a sensory-memory model for the five senses that may express in premediate hippocampal-replay and dream-replay. Not everyone observes every five senses as part of dream-replay. This can be either related to brain injury  such as lesions or simply could be a lack of development for sensory-replay in dreams similar to how dream recall shows differentials in the development of neural-pathway density indicating possible cognitive decline with age  or simply a lack of development resulting in loss of neural-pathways for sensory-replay as brain function during dreaming.
Working with people who have an absent sensory function in sensory-dream replay, we use active attention on sensory information while awake to help focus on sensory experiences lacking in dream replay. Then we work on reviewing these sensory memories during premediate sleep. This simple process has helped rehabilitate sensory loss in dream-replay. It fits in with how sensory-memory works, and how hippocampal replay works as part of development for dreaming.
In my experiences, I too suffered from a lack of taste/smell in my own dreams which I discovered back in 1987 when I encountered an article written by Dr. Stephan LaBerge and Jayne Gackenback in an Omni Magazine entitled “Power Trips: Controlling your dreams”. At the age of 15, I was already very developed for dreaming and had figured out how to work with interactive-dream replays of influences from pop culture to form dream content. What I lacked was self-awareness during 1980-1987 because the limited access to proper information that could have helped with that development simply wasn’t there until this magazine appeared in my school library and it changed everything.
My interest in dreams started as an 8-year-old after watching Star Wars one night and observed the influence of this emerge as visual hippocampal-replay during sleep much like the ‘Tetris’ effect and having been so needed out as a kid, seeing the movie images animate as I fell asleep caught my attention. During sleep, an interactive replay of the movie emerged in the rich realism of dream-replay that we’ve all come to know and love as our dreams.
Add an already existing ability to influence my dream content through pop culture making my own dreams fun and entertaining as a child. Now I had this idea that I could have total control over them through lucid dreaming. Sign me up! It was two days after the article that I would have my first lucid dream, and as a 15-year-old during the age of 8-bit graphic computer games and practical effects what I experienced from that point onward was unrivaled as an entertainment system. The graphics were great and it was fun.
But to my dismay, if I encountered food in a dream setting and went to eat it. There would be no smell or taste. Now tell me how disappointing that would be if you found yourself in a dream-replay of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory but you couldn’t taste the chocolate. That is what it was like. So from the age of 15-16, I had bland dreams but was still very entertained by them. I also notice many other problems appearing in the dream content that I called noise.
I couldn’t read text, there were stability issues, transitions to other dream themes were frustrating. I had a lot of work ahead of myself to fix these ‘problems’ for my own dream development and nothing to guide as Stephan LaBerge’s first instructional book arrived in 1990 although I didn’t read it until 1995.
By the age, however, I was now effortlessly able to become lucid simply because I worked very hard training this skill over, and over again and was noticing how working with my waking reality as a ‘template’ to improve my dream quality seemed to work. My method was always work with what I wanted to dream about, review it as it started to replay, let that shape the dream content and just participate once the body entered sleep. But the no-taste/no-smell problem really bothered me. Just seemed like it had to somehow work, but zero insights as to how to fix.
My breakthrough at the age of 16 in 1986 was simply drinking a hot chocolate as I ruminated over not having taste and smell in my dreams. I was demanding, pretentious about it. “I want to experience taste and smell equal or greater than this in my dreams” and I’d now pay close attention and focus on the experience of taste and smell. As part of my own practice, I used that as my reference and started to review those memories during premediate sleep. For the first time in premediate hippocampal replay, I noticed the faint allure of taste and smell from the memories of the hot chocolate. The dream progressed and as it formed I was now self-aware and drinking that hot chocolate replaying the memory and for the first time I had taste and smell. What a delight!
It was always there. Just pay attention and work with those memories for dream-replay. On that insight, seeing such great improvements I started to work with all five senses for recording sensory memory with a technique I coined ‘Cognitive Mapping’ and now have a free perception training course that has helped others achieve the same results. 41 years of pop-culture/video-game influenced dreaming, 34 years of self-awareness, and 22 years of climbing out of the moors of uncertainties on what is really dream development later. We arrive here. It’s just a skill we can develop or not.
If you had stunted development for poor sensory replay the technique is very simple. Pay attention during the day to sensory experiences lacking for your dream-replay. Review that memory in the same sensory manner during premediate hippocampal dream-replay until those senses of that memory start to present before the dream.
That’s it… it was that easy. This simple self-evident tip works with how dreams are examples of memory consolidation and a big part of that is sensory-memory consolidation. Most dream improvements I’ve had simply worked with attention, memory, review, and execution of my desired dream content.
Here is one of my favorite examples of gamified dreaming examples from 2014 where all of this comes together in how I still approach dreaming for fun and entertainment.
One of my favorite Star Wars influenced dreams. – Dreaming For Gamers
Here is the free perception course but I recommend starting with the memory course first if you have stunted dream recall issues.
[DP] Improve Dream Perception – Dreaming For Gamers
Ian Wilson r/DreamingForGamers
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