Sleep is an essential need for all human beings across all cultures. Throughout history, various religions and societies have tried to interpret what dreams during unconscious sleep really mean. Are they really prophetic messages or windows into a hidden compartment of the mind? And what are our brains doing during sleep? Are our emotions in dreams the same as emotions in a conscious, awake state? Does the brain process the emotion as a real “feeling” or is it just an illusion our brain creates to make the stories of dreams more realistic?
Understanding this idea can help us to define what an emotion is more precisely. It can give us an understanding if emotions are always correlated to the same brain region in different conscious states. Also, it gives psychologists more of a window into the importance of dreams themselves. Dreams could prove to increase emotional intelligence if emotions are in fact proven to not to be cranial illusions or they could give a broader purpose to why we dream in the first place. If dreams are in fact delusions created in the brain during REM, why? Research can be pursued to understand the evolutionary need for these illusions in the brain and what purpose they really do serve.
This experiment serves to prove if the emotions we experience in our dreams actually correlate with emotions during conscious and semi-conscious states. Using fMRI machines, experimenters will record brain activity to see where induced emotions occur in the brain and their specific brain regions. A sleep clinic will be used prior to any emotional induction to measure the amount of sleep movement subjects perform to see which individuals move too much for accurate reads so they can be retrained if need be in the fMRI machine.
I predict that all conscious states will distinguish evidence of emotional activity based on an individual’s brain basis during a conscious, aware state. I state this because the formation of dreams is based on the memory consolidation theory (Payne and Nadel 2004) where dreams mimic experiences in the waking the world. Memories are strengthened, organized, and processed during sleep (Walker and Stickgold 2005) and within those memories are emotions. So in dreams, individuals relive their memories from throughout the day or week, however they are reorganized and distorted slightly to create new and sometimes odd stories.
Explicit memories, memories formed during conscious aware states that can be recalled easily, also have a link to emotion. Emotional memories have the ability to reactivate specific physiological responses that occurred in the original emotion (LeDoux 1996). When we remember an explicit emotional memory, we actually reenact that particular emotion. For example, when an individual experiences a loss, the natural response is depression or sadness. When in a neutral or non-negative state, the memory of that loss or the event, can cause physiological changes in the individual’s body to...