The Science of Dream Memory and Recall
There is a lot of advanced science with regards to dreaming that the average person isn’t very familiar with, but avid dreamers are staying on the leading edge as more and more research emerges around the Art of Dreaming. Sticking with the science and techniques that have been rigorously tested and that work to advance dreaming as a skill is the foundation of the courses presented on this website. The twist? We look at turning dreaming into an Art Form and an Entertainment System to make dreams fun and to promote a safer, healthier and exciting dream life.
Why is the science of dreaming important? The science presents what problem areas exist with dreaming as a skill, from a neurological standpoint. What if I told you that developing poor dreams habits throughout your childhood and into your adult life can potentially forever damage your ability to recall a single dream?
That the same way in which language is learned at a young age during brain development, not learning or training for dreams can severely stifle your opportunity to participate in your dreams by the age of 25 when developing neural pathways linked to linguistics become ridged and set in their ways making learning any skill more difficult (but not impossible) for adults? That the same cognitive atrophy that affects unstimulated developing minds for language has a similar impact on the language of dreams.
Ignore the science, ignore your dreams, you may regret this later in life if dreaming suddenly becomes a renewed interest of yours because cognitive atrophy is real and is the reason why most people do not remember dreams. Want to be a Dream Artist? You will need to put in time, effort and do exercises to stimulate learning. Dreaming is an atrophic skill, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. More so, dreaming is a developmental skill that builds neural pathways like any skill we develop. The time we put into this development will become the results we have with our dreams.
It used to be believed that dreaming only took place during REM sleep, which is known as Rapid Eye Movement. With more advanced neuroscience linked to dreaming, sleep research laboratories using EEG, fMRI, and PET scans have discovered that the brain is processing dream information in both REM and NREM stages of sleep.
Before scientific evidence with regards to dreaming, very poor assumptions were made that people don’t dream and invent them upon waking. Or the brain is merely producing random, incoherent noise sorting out events from the day. The fact is, we do dream every time we sleep, and the content of dreams are not random or incoherent noise. Both assumptions are false and fMRI studies prove that dreaming is something the brain does. The science today is far more advanced and ever evolving which debunks these assumptions and paves way to new innovative ways to enhance dreaming as a skill.
Research into how we remember our dreams memory takes place in the short-term memory regions of the brain, the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPFC), and the temporo-partial junction (TPJ). Our long-term memory region known as the Hippocampus was observed sending information out (episodic memory acquired during wakefulness is being progressively transferred to the neocortex as long-term memory) during deep sleep and does not taking information in from the dreams. There is little activity in the Amygdala (the region that deals with long term emotional memory).
This memory consolidation (episodic and semantic) is likely the reason why our dreams reflect our waking life experiences and why someone who watched a horror movie, could be having a nightmare. And why those who play video games experience the Tetris effect and experience a dream that is influenced from playing a video game.
Episodic memory deals with experience and specific time in serial form and is concentrated in the Hippocampus. As we know with dream research during sleep the hippocampus consolidates episodic memory during sleep sending information out to the cortex and this is theoretically where experience replay in dreams reside and why people who immerse in a video game may find themselves dreaming in that video game influence.
Semantic memory deals with knowledge, meanings, facts and concepts. It is mainly active in the frontal and temporal cortexes.
Memory of an event is also distributed into various visual, auditory, olfactory and temporal areas of the brain. Make note of this science fact as it becomes very important later on in the course. Hippocampal replay has been extensively studied on animals and now in 2020 we have hard evidence that hippocampal replay takes place in humans as well. A study working towards a neural-interface in humans allowed scientists to connect electrodes in the brain of two volunteers and they tracked the neural activity while the participants played a game. When the participants slept they were seen to replay the same activity over again from the game-play. Pretty much what we are doing here at Dreaming For Gamers but without the invasive electrodes.
The scientists conduced that this ‘offline-replay’ helps to make memories more permanent and proves human-learning as it has done with rats.
In Hippocampal replay studies on rats. Researchers used a similar method of installing electrodes to record place-cell firing sequences during a rat moving through a maze, then observed these same spike-pattern sequences repeating during sleep in ripples indicating the rat was dreaming of activities it preformed during the day
Here is a link to the study, Replay of Learned Neural Firing Sequences during Rest in Human Motor Cortex: Cell Reports
When they disrupted ‘replay’ they discovered this impaired the rat’s learning performance.
Science is still struggling to answer an age-old enigma as to why some people remember their dreams, and other people do not. The enigma of dream memory baffled dream researchers who hooked participants up to EEG recording activity in the brain that relates to dreaming only to find out when the participant woke up and was asked what they dreamed, the responded that they did not dream at all. Yet all the recorded data during their sleep indicated the brain was processing dream information. Why did the participant not remember their dreams?
There are two problem areas with dream recall. The first problem is a neurological reason which have discussed called “Cognitive Atrophy” and is evident again in fMRI scans when comparing a person with high-frequency dream recall vs a person with low-frequency recall and what they discovered was those people who remembered more dreams simply had more neural-pathway development (white-matter density).
The neurological reason why some people can’t remember dreams they haven’t developed enough neural-pathways for dream recall due to lack of development through the simple act of making an effort to review dreams when they wake up. The lack of effort doesn’t pipe dream memories through the medial-prefrontal cortex to stimulate those neural-pathways so they either won’t develop over time, and go into atrophy. If they atrophy or don’t develop properly we will not recall our dreams. This decline in dream recall is evident in Age and Frequency studies for dream recall.
There is substantial evidence in sleep and dream research that shows REM sleep and REM dreams play a role in the development of neural pathways and synapses. REM sleep puts stimulation of neural pathways into over-drive and is observed in REM sleep and babies as part of their cognitive development. This development with dreaming also fits in with dream frequency with age and explains why people who are still in the developmental stage of their brain under the age of 25 have more dreams and dream recall than a person who already has fully developed neurologically by the mid 20s.
During REM sleep, the brain prunes neural connections and develops new ones.
“We further show that dendritic calcium spikes arising during REM sleep are important for pruning and strengthening new spines. Together, these findings indicate that REM sleep has multifaceted functions in brain development, learning and memory consolidation by selectively eliminating and maintaining newly formed synapses via dendritic calcium spike-dependent mechanisms.”
The same evidence of neural-pathway development for dreaming is found with fMRI research on people who can lucid dream vs those who cannot. The same increase in both white-matter and grey-matter density is found in the prefrontal cortex. If we look at the non-lucid dreamer during REM sleep, brain activity is dim. If we look at a lucid dreamer, the brain is lit up and very active processing dream information. Why do you think that is? What’s the difference between these three images?
Dreaming is an atrophic skill like other parts of the body like muscles. If we do not regularly exercise and work out at the gym, all those hard gains go back to mush. It is the same with our brain, if we do not stimulate it, it will not build neural pathways over time to better facilitate cognitive tasks. If we stop training in a cognitive skill, over time, we forget, and the pathways that once were lit up become less active. Therefore “Cognitive Atrophy” is the #1 cause of Dream Amnesia.
After the age of 25, is it shown that our development of neural pathways for learning diminishes making it harder, not impossible to add new skills. Dreaming is fundamentally a language between your waking self and your subconscious mind. It is a thought process that communicates in a vivid sensory rich feedback based on experiences you have from waking life. Therefore, parents who do not encourage their children’s dreams are likely damning them into dreamless adult hood depriving them proper development unknowingly. Just because some dream illiterate person said dreams are dumb, doesn’t mean dreams are dumb. Tell that to famous musicians, artists, writers and scientists who had their lives and careers changed from dreams and they might strongly disagree.
The other reason stems from a psychological model with regards to dreaming, which I call “Psychological Inhibitors.” This comes down to a person’s attitude about their dreams. If they don’t care, don’t believe, don’t participate, and just develop bad habits, the brain not being stimulated by participation and repeat practice simply moves into cognitive atrophy.
Some psychological inhibitors for people who do remember dreams stem from personality types where people who daydream, use their imagination, fantasize, are introspective, and use creative thinking tend to remember their dreams more. People who only focus on what is outside of themselves tend to have difficulty remembering their dreams. Which one are you?
Other problems are social stigmas with regards to dreaming where people think dreaming is weird, or crazy not realizing that they too dream and are merely judging themselves as a dreamer and their own lack of training for dream development.
Psychological Inhibitors leading to Cognitive Atrophy produces two forms of amnesia related to dreaming. The first takes place when we go to sleep and is called “Sleep Induced Amnesia.” The other form is “Waking Induced Amnesia.” This isn’t the movie inspired version where someone gets hit on the head and forgets who they are. Amnesia is when you suffer a loss of memory such as facts, information and experiences. Dreams are experiences that you are having but forgetting when you wake up (if you suffer from amnesiac sleep). The truth, you are processing dream information every time you sleep, but the experience and memory is now only taking place in your unconsciousness.
The relationship between Amnesia and Dreams is also very self-evident as waking up from the amnesiac fog caused by cognitive atrophy. It is usually a single fragment of a dream memory that can trigger the rest of the dream experience during dream recall. Triggers often invoke memory from amnesiac experiences. This holds true to dreams.
Sleep Induced Amnesia is caused when neurological changes happen, and atrophic neural pathways prevent you from remembering the dream while asleep and in the dream itself. You are still dreaming, but the memory not stimulating the regions where you would remember upon waking.
Waking Induced Amnesia is caused when you wake up, and the dream memory is flushed into the subconscious from the short-term regions of the brain as long term memory regions do not take in information. How many times have you woken up to remember a dream only to observe it fade into forgetfulness?
The reason for this because the dream has already run its course, and people now must focus on waking life. Either they will try to remember and review the dream memory or just toss it aside and get ready for the day. The other reason stems from our evolutionary optimization for survival. In the past, humans were part of the food chain, and being woken up suddenly from sleep forces the mind to flush any dream memory as a survival mechanism rapidly. Therefore, suddenly being woken up by a loud noise or alarm will cause your dream memory to flush rapidly. The alarm is triggering a survival trait prioritizing wakefulness over sleep memory.
Now that the science is done, and you know all of this. What is the answer to the enigma as to why some people do not remember their 3-5 dreams each night? Poor dream memory and recall is due to cognitive atrophy, psychological inhibitors, and lack of interest and participation in one’s own dreams. Non-dreamers develop bad dreaming habits, do not view dreaming with any interest, and do not train dreams as a skill. Unknown to them, they have stunted critical development of neural pathways during their childhood and young adult life with regards to dreaming which can forever deny them access to this nighttime entertainment system.
Those who do participate, train for dreaming and learn the skill reap the rewards having access to endless fun and adventure and develop the neural pathways strengthening them for easier, more vivid and wonderful dream experiences. It’s that simple. Problem solved.
Why are some people masterful artists, or pianists or athletes? They trained for it. Dreaming is a skill, and like any skill is learned over time, improved upon and developed with the right skills and knowledge becomes whatever you want your dreams to be. There are no 3 easy steps for any learned skill. It takes time to rehabilitate atrophic neural pathways. Repeat practice and routine are the only way to strengthen the dreaming mind. You can’t short-cut how the brain develops neural-pathways but you see the development in little improvements daily which we call baby-steps until enough development happens and you have a big-leap. This means more dream recall, better SRC development and source-material starts to be observed in dreams when you remember the ‘replay’ cycle. But it just takes a little time to get stimulation for development until the results become quicker and easier as you learn and develop.
As memory is the number one problem, it is why this course is a pre-requisite for all other courses. What good is anything else offered in these courses if you simply cannot remember your dreams? Thus, we address the fundamental root problems with dreaming and progress towards more adventurous, skill-orientated lessons in the next unit.