The Activation-Synthesis Theory

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The activation-synthesis theory proposes that dreams reflect brain activation in sleep, rather than a repressed unconscious wish. Alan Hobson and Robert McCarley developed this theory, which is completely different from Sigmund Freud's claims. The REM stage of sleep (when dreams occur) is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine while serotonin and norepinephrine are shut down. When the latter are shut down, reflective thought, reasoning, action and memory decrease. The acetylcholine activates nerve cells in the pons which send incomplete signals to the thalamus. The thalamus sends sensory information to the language and visual parts of the forebrain. The amygdala also gets involved; adding in fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and elation to the story the forebrain puts together from the sensory information. The activation-synthesis theory says that this, not our experiences and deep thoughts, is what makes up what we know as a dream.
Why, then, do we experience nightmares after we see a scary movie, or have dreams about that special someone who we've been crushing on? That's something I'd like to know as well. How could it be that the dreams we have are just the result of a neurotransmitter running around our brain when we dream of things relevant to our lives? I feel like the activation-synthesis theory is not completely correct in saying that dreams are just a result of our brain activation, but I also do not agree completely with Freud. I think that dreams are probably a mixture of our experiences/worries and brain activity, and I'd like to see a study investigate further into that.

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This page contains a single entry by walsh475 published on October 9, 2011 11:18 PM.

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