Just to help put this post in perspective, your reading material for today is a Wikipedia link about dreams and the process of dreaming. The first paragraph is a good summary, but it would behoove you to look at the rest of the article as well.
So. Backstory: Recently I was required to observe a newborn for a Developmental Psychology class, and most of this observation was spent watching the child sleep (yes, I know; imagine the odds of catching a newborn in the middle of naptime...). She slept for about an hour and a half, during which she would occasionally make anxious/distressed grunts and moans in her sleep; these noises were accompanied by the slight shifting of positions (not much, since she can't even hold up her own head...), some gentle kicking, reaching, and grasping.
Sounds like dreaming, doesn't it?
See, the thing is, it's a standing theory that newborns aren't supposed to be able to have dreams. Admittantly, the theory follows a logical train of thought: if dreams are fabrications of the mind and are made from the combination of memories and one's own imagination, then babies, lacking experience in both of these areas, should not have "dreams".
There is also the physiological aspect to consider. In particular, except for some stages of REM sleep, certain neurotransmitters react with associated specific areas of the brain to trigger the emotion- and motor-related responses we see when we watch someone dream.
But which is the cause and which is the effect? Do the neurotransmitters cause a dream, or does a dream cause the brain to fire off the neurotransmitters?
What was making the child distressed? What made her kick or reach to grasp at nothing?
I do not pose this because I have an answer. I merely thought it would make an interesting discussion; if you have any thoughts on the subject or any responses to my musings, feel free to post. I'll try to push the right buttons to make "anonymous" posting possible in my blog settings (still, sign your name so I know who you are), but if not, feel free to drop me an e-mail.
Edit: Anonymous comments have been enabled for a while -- if I start getting spam (which happened a lot last time I left the comments open to Anyone), I'll have to change it back, but it's all good for now.
3 days ago