Llewellyn (2013): Such stuff as dreams are made on?

PDF: Llewellyn_BBS_36_589-659_2013_Such-stuff-as-dreams

Such stuff as dreams are made on? Elaborative encoding, the ancient art of memory, and the hippocampus


Abstract: This article argues that rapid eye movement (REM) dreaming is elaborative encoding for episodic memories. Elaborative encoding in REM  can, at least partially, be  understood  through  ancient  art  of memory  (AAOM) principles: visualization, bizarre association, organization, narration,  embodiment,  and location. These principles render  recent  memories  more  distinctive through novel and meaningful association with emotionally salient, remote memories. The AAOM optimizes memory performance, suggesting that  its  principles  may  predict  aspects  of  how  episodic  memory  is  configured  in  the  brain.  Integration   and  segregation  are fundamental  organizing principles  in  the  cerebral  cortex.  Episodic  memory  networks  interconnect  profusely  within  the  cortex, creating omnidirectional “landmark” junctions. Memories may be integrated  at junctions but  segregated along connecting network paths  that  meet  at  junctions.  Episodic  junctions  may  be  instantiated  during  non–rapid  eye  movement  (NREM)   sleep  after hippocampal associational function during REM dreams. Hippocampal association involves relating, binding, and integrating episodic memories into a mnemonic  compositional whole. This often bizarre, composite image has not been present  to the senses; it is not “real” because it hyperassociates several memories. During REM sleep, on the phenomenological level, this composite image is experienced  as a dream  scene.  A dream  scene  may be  instantiated  as omnidirectional  neocortical  junction  and  retained  by the hippocampus as an index. On episodic memory retrieval, an external stimulus (or an internal representation)  is matched by the hippocampus  against  its  indices.  One  or  more  indices  then  reference   the  relevant  neocortical  junctions  from  which  episodic memories  can  be  retrieved.  Episodic  junctions  reach  a  processing  (rather  than  conscious) level during  normal  wake to  enable retrieval. If this hypothesis is correct, the stuff of dreams is the stuff of memory.

About Tore Nielsen

Researcher at University of Montreal and Director of Dream & Nightmare Laboratory
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