Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Perchance to dream

Today's Science Times is entirely devoted to sleep. I wish I could say the same. Benedict Carey's article discusses the hypothesized role of sleep in the consolidation and organization of memories. The hippocampus - a structure that helps to form new memories - is thought to contain a map-like representation of physical space. And the pattern of activity when rats first learn to move through a maze is repeated the following night when, this scientist presumes, they were consolidating the memory of that movement:
Computers record the cells' firing in real time and can broadcast it over speakers. "I would listen to this background music of the brain sometimes when the animals were asleep, and I started hearing this section that sounded very much like the pattern when the animals were in the maze..."

The article does point out that other scientists contest this interpretation of events, as nothing about the research demonstrates that the brain is not performing this process when awake.


Anonymous said...

My favorite work so far on sleep & dreaming has been J. Allan Hobson's theories on the madness of dreaming as a glimpse into how the unhinged mind works. I had the great fortune to take a class on states of consciousness from him at Harvard a handful of years ago; he's a fascinating teacher.

Ted said...

Heather - I'm not familiar with him. Has he written a book?