Exploringn a Neurobiological Theory of Dreaming
Neurobiological theory of dreaming focuses on the brain and the
nervous system. The activation synthesis theory which is one of the
theories put forward by Hobson and Mcarley (1998) said sleep is
controlled by mechanism in the brainstem. When activated this inhibits
activity in the skeletal muscles and increases activity in the
forebrain. This theory seems dreaming as an automatic part of the
sleep process that may have no significance beyond the need to
organize the material into coherent forms. Hobson points out that
injection of a drug that increases the action of acetylcholine both
increases REM sleep and dreaming.
There is a research evidence to support the activation synthesis
theory. Research was taken on cats where there is apparently random
firing of cells in cat's brains during REM sleep. This then therefore
produces activation in parts of the brain that are used as visual
perception and the control of the motor movements and may be
synthesised into a dream.
Hobson also showed evidence of how internally generated signals can be
misinterpreted as external signals. He said that the cortical levels
of the neurotransmitters are lower during REM sleep than during NREM
sleep and when we are awake.
However one criticism of this theory is that the supporting research
which was done for this was in a laboratory where participants slept
and this however differs significantly from sleep in more natural
This theory is in good in explaining why smells and taste rarely or
never appear in our dreams because only those parts in vision and
hearing are activated. This theory also accounts for why we often find
our dreams hard to understand as it stated that dreams are not
functioning effectively and due to random activity.
However this theory does not provide a convincing argument of the fact
that some dreams possess clear meaning and coherence. This theory has
little value in explaining why some time dreams are repetitive.
Describe and evaluate one psychological theory of dreaming?