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Outline and evaluate one neurobiological theory of dreaming and one psychological theory of dreaming

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Introduction

a) Outline and evaluate one neurobiological theory of dreaming One neurobiological theory of dreaming is the activation-synthesis hypothesis, which suggests that the brain stem generates random signals as it does when you're awake due to internal and external stimuli (Hobson and McCarley, 1977). However, unlike when you're awake, during sleep there is a sensory and motor blockade i.e. no input from senses and no control of muscles due to paralysis so there is a lack of internal and external stimuli but EEG recordings show that the cortex is still active in REM sleep. The only muscles that are allowed to move are those controlling the eyes, hence REM sleep is called rapid eye movement sleep. Dreams are supposedly created during the synthesis part of this process. When the activation (the random signals) reaches the frontal cortex, it essentially does the same job as when we are awake. It tries to make sense of the stimuli being received. Dreams are often of a strange nature because of the combination of the electrical signals from the brainstem and stored images in memory and because the brain attempts to invest the dream with meaning. Hobson (1988) believed that dreams are no more than reactions to random nervous system stimuli, which the brain "interprets" as peculiar images and other sensory illusions. Research to support this theory comes from recent developments in brain scanning techniques. PET scans show the brainstem is active during REM sleep (Braun et al., 1997). ...read more.

Middle

It describes awake, NREM and REM as variations of A+I+M. When you're awake you have high activation, high external input and high serotonin. When in NREM sleep you have medium levels on all three variables and when in REM sleep you have high activation, high internal input and high acetylcholine. This was an advance from the previous 2 dimensional models such as traditional sleep graphs. It proved to be more useful in sleep and dreaming research because all 3 dimensions, A, I and M are entirely measurable which gives it high internal validity. However, Morrison and Sanford suggest that any model used in research is premature because we simply do not know enough about the brain. One could argue that the AIM model is an evolving one and will change with time when the technological development allows it. Overall it seems that Hobson's neurobiological theories have made a substantial and valuable contribution to the explanation of dreaming. b) Outline and evaluate one psychological theory of dreaming Freud saw dreams as primary-process thought (repression). He believed that personality consists of three fundamental structures: the id, the ego and the superego. The id is the most significant idea in Freud's theory of dreaming. This is the unconscious foundation of our desires and the source of fantasies deriving from these. The id is associated with irrational, instinct driven, unconscious thought called primary-process thought. This form of thought is often seen as controversial to the adult conscious mind so is shifted to a person's dreams. ...read more.

Conclusion

This causes us to question Freud's theory. It lowers the face validity of his ideas because we cannot see how nightmares would fit into his explanation. A better explanation of dreaming may be Cartwright's theory of dreams as problem solving. This would explain why we have nightmares when we need to solve emotional problems that we may be experiencing during the day. Dreams are a place where we can reflect on our major emotional concerns and confront any conflicts that we may be having in our conscious life. This way, a person can work through their issues that were troubling them before. As a result, they may feel they can cope better with everyday life. This theory has high face validity than that of Freud's idea because we feel we can apply it to a wider variety of dreams. Overall, it seems that whilst Freud's theory may have been held back by the lack of technological capabilities, it does seem to bear similarities with some of the 21st century ideas of dreaming. The only difference appears to be the labels and connotations that we give the areas of the brain. It is possible that Freud was correct in some of his assumptions and this can be supported by modern day research. However, it has also been criticised for it's lack of contemporary support and it's inability to explain a wider area of dreams to the point where we become unsure of the extent that we can find it useful in our research on the explanations of dreaming. ...read more.

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