Falling, flying, arriving at work with no pants on. Why do our brains treat us to all these bizarre adventures at night? Do dreams have a function or are they just by-products of our neurons?
After decades of research, neuroscientists are now getting closer to an answer. What would it mean to find a neurological explanation for our dreams? Should we want science to answer this age-old mystery? Come and listen on MO 26.02 to neuroscientist Sarah Schoch and philosopher Herman Westerink, and find out what dreams are made of.
This progamme is in English.
Whether we remember them or not, we all have them every night: dreams. But why? Throughout history dreams have played an important cultural, spiritual and even religious role in almost all every human society. According to some scientists and scholars, dreams are functional: maybe they allow us to process the day’s events, or they are our brain’s way of practising for all kinds of situations. Others speculate that dreams could be the way our brain stocks and arranges our memories. Still others suppose that dreams have no function at all, but are only vivid by-products of our neurons firing at night. What would it mean if one of these theories were proved to be true? Would that mean dreams lose their meaning? Or would it only deepen our relationship with our nightly visions?
Dreams have of course not only been of interest to scientists. In many religions and cultural traditions, dreams form an important source of meaning. They are often interpreted as divine messages, cosmic omens or spiritual guidance, and have thus helped to shape the societies we live in. But also individually, people ascribe great personal importance to their dreams. Sigmund Freud even based much of his revolutionary psychoanalysis on dreams, which he argued were ‘messages from the subconscious’ from which we could learn a great deal about our true nature and motives.
Neuroscientist Sarah Schoch and philosopher Herman Westerink dive into the age-old mystery of dreams. What role do dreams play in the way we make sense of ourselves? What can neuroscience tell us about why we dream? And would a scientific answer to the dream-question change the meaningful part they play in our lives? Come and ask your questions.
Sarah Schoch is a neuroscientist at Radboud University, where she is a member of the Donders Sleep & Memory Lab. In her postdoctoral research, she investigates the association between dreaming and memory consolidation.
Herman Westerink is a philosophical anthropologist at Radboud University. In his research he mostly focusses on the relation between psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Particularly, he applies Freudian psychanalysis to mystical experiences in the past.