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Theories attempting to explain the origin and functions of REM sleep include: (1) that

REM sleep provides stimulation for the development of the brain; (2) that it performs a chemical

restoration function, since during REM dreaming neuro-protein synthesis occurs along with the

restoration of other depleted brain chemicals; (3) that it provides oculomotor (eye movement)

coordination, since during non-REM sleep the eyes move independently of each other; (4) that it

provides a vigilance function, since REM sleep (stage I) is characterized by a level of

consciousness close to the awakened state; (5) in a more recent and controversial theory, REM

dreaming performs a neurological erasure function, eliminating extraneous information build-up in

the memory system; and (6) that, in a more cognitive psychological explanation, REM dreaming

enhances memory storage and reorganization.

Contrary to popular belief, dreaming is not caused by eating certain foods before

bedtime, nor by environmental stimuli during sleeping. Dreaming is caused by internal biological

process. Some researchers have proposed the activation-synthesis hypothesis. Their

neurological research indicates that large brain cells in the primitive brain stem spontaneously fire

about every 90 minutes, sending random stimuli to cortical areas of the BRAIN. As a

consequence, memory, sensory, muscle-control, and cognitive areas of the brain are randomly

stimulated, resulting in the higher cortical brain attempting to make some sense of it. This,

according to the research, gives rise to the experience of a dream.

Now, as in the past, the most significant controversy centers on the question of whether dreams

have intentional, or actual personal, meaning. Many psychotherapists maintain that while the

neurological impulses from the brain stem may activate the dreaming process, the content or

meaningful representations in dreams are caused by nonconscious needs, wishes, desires, and

everyday concerns of the dreamer. Thus, such psychotherapists subscribe to the

phenomenological-clinical, or "top-down," explanation, which holds that dreams are intentionally

meaningful messages from the unconscious. The neurological, or "bottom-up," explanation

maintains that dreams have no intentional meaning. In between these two positions is an

approach called content analysis. Content analysis simply describes and classifies the various

representations in dreams, such as people, houses, cars, trees, animals, and color, though no

deep interpretation is attributed to the content. Differences in content have been discovered

between the dreams of males and females, and between dreams and occurring in different

developmental stages of life. What these differences mean is under investigation.

Some recent research seems to indicate that dream content reflects problems that the

dreamer experiences



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(2010, 10). Dream. Retrieved 10, 2010, from

"Dream" 10 2010. 2010. 10 2010 <>.

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"Dream." 10, 2010. Accessed 10, 2010.