Saturday, January 22, 2011

Re-consolidation theory of dream- A computational model explaining the occurrence of dreams

The following essay is a self-developed theory investigating into the scarcely explained concept of dreaming. It came to me while watching my beautiful wife's eyelashes flicker while she was falling asleep.

I could relate the flickering of her eyelashes to the consolidation of memory that occurs in the hard drive when the computer is idle or in the process of a shut down- you know when the small LED light flicker when your computer is busy. The Continual Activation theory proposed by Jie Zhang in 2004 is somewhat related to the thoughts I am expressing in this essay, but I have a few modifications to this theory (

When the computer is in the process of shut down, it consolidates all the information from the RAM and places it into fragments in the hard drive. Although the Continual activation theory states that the declarative memory (consolidated through type 1 dream) and procedural memory (consolidated through type 2 dream) are transferred onto long term memory during dreams, I believe that dreaming has nothing to do with consolidation of memories. It is the process of fragmenting the information that has been prioritized in the course of your active, awake period and infuse those with the subconscious thought processes that have been embossed unknowingly through associations and past experiences. Your memory has already been consolidated while you are awake; dreams simply re-consolidates those thoughts during REM sleep which are experienced by individuals through visual, tactile or other sensory experiences.

This re-consolidation is a random occurrence as none of your dreams are controlled (although there is a concept called Lucid Dreaming that is prevalent) but is a normal phenomenon. This re-consolidation process resembles the streaming of information- both conscious and subconscious- to you while the information is uploaded to your brain. If the fragmented information comes to you in a string of random images, dreams don't make sense, but by chance if they appear in a string of connected images, dreams carry meaning. I am still working on why people have repeated dreams or nightmares, it may take a little while- but I am sure I will figure it out.

Anyway, just like your hard drive has fragments of information- some connected, some disconnected- your mind is similar. Hence, dreams cannot be the vehicles for consolidation of memory rather a process of re-consolidating information after the memories have been formed.