Maybe all life is just a dream?

I’ve been continuing my reading of the book “Mapping the Mind” (which really is a good overview of all things brain) and have been going through the section on memory. It’s a fascinating topic if only because, well, er… hmmm… I forgot.

But seriously folks – science has some general understanding of the brain as a vast network of interconnected nodes (nodes being at their most base level, neuron cells.) Memories seem to be either momentary or permanent “strengthenings” between these nodes. You play fetch with your dog today and, for a while, the nodes linking dogs and balls and parks are strengthened. But eventually, unless you constantly recall the event, they wither. Episodes of extreme emotional impact, particularly distress – say, being raped by your dog – form very strong connections between these nodes.

One interesting thing is that memories seem to move around in the brain. The past two or three years of your life are stored on a section of brain called the hippocampus. As a result, if your hippocampus gets damaged or destroyed, you lose those years of memories (along with other faculties) while other previous memories remain.

Dreams play an interesting role in memory. It’s supposed that during dreaming you replay recent events, thereby strengthening the neural connections between parts of these events. At first this idea struck me as odd. My dreams are not mere recreations of my day, they are often bizarre fantastic stories. However, we do often see the inspiration for elements of our dreams in recent events. For instance, I read a magazine about lizards and have a dream about riding a giant lizard that night. I read a book on human perception and have a dream about expanding my vision that night. My dad recently had someone talk about sending him a homeopathic medicine and had a very real dream later that day about a “miracle cure.” It may be these are not mere coincidences, but the means our brains use to “wire” in these memories.

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