Sleep researchers now think that dreams are produced in graymatter that’s deep in the back of the brain. Scientistsstudying a woman who lost her ability to dream after astroke in that area are trying to discover if dreams haveany meaning.

Helen Phillips writes in New Scientist that soon after thestroke, the 73-year-old woman reported an incrediblehallucination or dream, so vivid that she wasn’t surewhether she was asleep or awake. After that, she lost theability to dream for three months. Neurologist ClaudioBassetti says this means that hallucinations and dreamsoriginate in the same part of the brain. If they come fromthe back region, rather than the frontal lobes where wethink and plan, this means that our brains are not giving uscoded messages while we sleep that will tell us something ifwe try to interpret them in the daytime. Bassetti says, “Tome, this suggests?at least in adulthood?that dreams may nothave any major function. It supports the hypothesis thatdreams reflect mental activity in the brain, but don’t havea specific function of their own.”

But sleep researcher Mark Solms thinks frontal brainregions, which are important in motivation and emotion, arevital for generating dreams and says that both parts of thebrain work together to produce dreams.

Although mostly the woman’s sleep pattern was normal, shedid wake up more often than usual. One of the oldesttheories of dreaming is that dreams keep you from waking up.Solms says, “If something threatens awakening, you have adream experience instead.”

If you can’t rely on dreams to tell you what’s going on, youneed to learn special methods ofdivination.

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