Zadra and co-author Robert Stickgold’s fascinating new book, When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep, steers a reasonable and broad-minded course between the many interpretive whirlpools that have swallowed previous explorers of dreams. Though they tour a broad range of contemporary research and theorizing, they ultimately propose that a primary function of dreaming is to detect and dramatize the possible meanings of information latent in memories and associations that we rarely access while awake ... Though Zadra and Stickgold reject the idea that dreams are random epiphenomena, they also stress that dreams only rarely replay or resolve actual life situations. Their own theory proposes that dreaming extracts new information from memories by discovering and strengthening previously unexplored associations ,,, The fact that dreams often generate powerful emotions and deploy narrative structures further strengthens the notion that they perhaps represent a kind of theater of the unconscious, one not always intent on providing concrete solutions so much as making sense and meaning out of our experiences.
Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold, two of the world’s leading researchers in the science of sleep and dreams, have written a remarkable account of what we know and don’t know about this mysterious thing that happens during the night. The promise of When Brains Dream is to address four questions: 'What are dreams? Where do they come from? What do they mean? And what are they for?' In a masterly narrative, the authors answer these and many more questions with solid scientific research and a flair for captivating storytelling ... When we’re awake, our brains are so busy attending to the environment that we tend to favor linear connections and thinking; when we allow ourselves to daydream, we solve problems that have distant, novel or nonlinear solutions ... When Brains Dream is a rarity among popular science books, one that neither dumbs down the research nor steps outside of what we know, and yet is still a page-turner. The authors are admirably cautious, leading us through a brief exploration of the epistemological limits of contemporary neuroscience. And they retain an infectious sense of the wonder of it all.
In When Brains Dream , sleep scientists Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold detail the latest research that seeks to understand what occurs in our brains when we dream, and they present theories about what purposes dreaming may serve. The book takes the reader from humanity’s early religious understanding of dreams, through our initial attempts to study the psychology of dreaming, to current experiments on the neurophysiology of the sleeping brain, providing relatable and often humorous anecdotal evidence from the authors’ own lives and work along the way ... n the latter half of the book, the authors present the ambitious theory that dreams themselves, not just the dream sleep state, play a critical role in the consolidation of memories—a theory they refer to as network exploration to understand possibilities ... They maintain that dreams, rather than merely repeating the events of the day to cement them into long-term storage, allow our brains to freely explore memories that have been filed away over time, extracting information and developing a narrative based on associations ... But why do dreams take on a narrative structure at all? The authors suggest that the narrative allows the dreamer to explore and evaluate possible scenarios, providing a mechanism by which a verdict can be rendered. Dreams that elicit strong emotions, they argue, may cue the brain about the association’s potential utility, which may in turn lead to a strengthening of that association.