Still, no one knows what dreaming actually is... Theories are present but no concrete answer exists.
Agreed, however we do know some of the mechanics of it - like for example that it's present during REM (alpha brainwave state, but lower spectrum I think...)
As some research suggests, dreaming is a "more artificial" construct of our minds. In our waking state, we are still constructing all the inputs we receive from the input senses to form a point of view unique to the individual. This goes for colour, texture, smell, sound, etc. In a dreaming state, these physical inputs do not exist, but that does not mean that our brain cannot synthesise it.
If you have ever studied NLP (let’s not get into a deep discussion of it’s merits or lack of) you’ll be well aware that we can easily change our construct even with utterly unchanged inputs. One of my favourite studies into this is the original study of phobias by Dr Bandler – which basically says that a person was able to more or less instantly remove their own phobia when they “saw themselves” from a 3rd point of view. Now, without a camera and a VR set of glasses (I have two different sets
) that is a pretty “hard” task to do, but I am sure if you close your eyes right now, you will easily do it.
So back to dreams … most of our day to day decision making is done in the Beta brainwave state (normal waking state) … which could explain why it’s so hard to “decide” what you dream about when you’re asleep. In deep meditation (with really not that much practice) you can arrive at a “sleeping state” where your body is asleep for all intents and purposes, but your mind is wide awake. But you literally cannot even more a finger… funky feeling let me tell you!
I have used GABA in the past (before sleep) and experienced insanely realistic and vivid dreams, which I could recall for days after. That is very rare for dreams (at least for me). As always, Wikipedia is a good source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GABA
Although I am not a biochemist, I’d say that GABA helps with the specific receptors to do with the dreaming state… may be?
My specific interest with dreaming is our perception of time in dreams. Dreams that seem to go on for hours only last seconds in the “real world.” The reality though is that the dream itself did not last for hours, simply our memory of it has a certain chronological construct, which our rational mind translates to x hours or whatever. To me this implies that during the dreaming state we “bypass” the short-term and working memory – basically waking up with the memory of events in our long term memory. Now for short term memory formation, we know that Acetylcholine (Ach for short) is involved (research suggests Neural adaptation suppression). However, I am not sure if an equivalent chemical is suggested in long term memory formation.
So the REALLY INTERESTING question is if we can “form long term memory” without the standard learning model of repetition via working and short-term memory, could we learn to, say, play piano, while dreaming simply by forming the long term memory of it… kinda cool if you ask me!