Björn Brembs
Final day at UCSD: data crunch -
Finally read your "free will" piece on the train this morning, so now at least I sort of know what you are doing with all those leeches. Question: if the brain property which generates nonlinearity is independent of consciousness, does that imply e.g. behaviours exhibited in sleep would be expected to respond to operant conditioning? - Bill Hooker
Excellent question. It is known that during sleep, some neural patterns which were prominent during the day are repeated. It is not known how pervasive this is. It is known from the hippocampus (memory area), but it may also be happening in motor areas. If so, one could, in theory, record from these areas during sleep and then pair the desired activity with electric shock for punishment, but this would probably wake the subject up. More suitably, you'd give a drug injection (cocaine, heroin) or a direct stimulation of the median forebrain bundle as a powerful reward. I think, in theory at least, you could do operant conditioning in your sleep :-) - Björn Brembs
Since you mentioned the MFB, now I'm thinking of putting these ideas together with this ( to get rich by selling "quit smoking in your sleep" and similar packages... e.g. induce dreams of smoking and/or administer nicotine, followed by aversive stimulus. :-) - Bill Hooker
Perfect idea! In fact, my current (unsupported by any direct evidence, only circumstantial!) hypothesis is that habit formation is based on the same biological mechanisms as the operant learning we're studying. So you'd be right on target there! :-) - Björn Brembs
A good 'motor' pattern to look into that would be in the song system (which 'sings' during sleep). Nice thing about song is that changes can be rather well characterised, can detect subtle changes. Also you have left/right contribution to song which means that you could try to see what happens to song when you only much with one side of the brain vs both. - Kubke
@kubke: exactly, that would be an excellent model!! - Björn Brembs
Bjorn - wouldn't you have to be conscious (awake or in REM) for the MFB to work? By definition it is impossible to experience emotion while unconscious. - Jean-Claude Bradley
I'm not an expert on this, but the dopamine release should, in principle work to modify the synapses/neurons either way, i.e. with or without the actual experience of pleasure. - Björn Brembs
@Jean-Claude: I can see how lucid dreams can make one happy while experiencing it. - Bala
Bala - for me (and a few others I have spoken with) the "self-critical voice" component of experience is turned off during lucid dreaming. It is usually disappointing to come back to reality :) - Jean-Claude Bradley
Bjorn, this would be testable on animals - I wonder if anyone has come across a paper on this. I would think that the entire limbic system loop would have to be active. It is reported to be active during REM, suggesting that it isn't during deep sleep - Jean-Claude Bradley
Definitely testable, but the recording/stimulation setup would not be trivial, to say the least. Am in-flight ATM, so can't look at the reference, I'm afraid... - Björn Brembs from iPhone
@Jean-Claude: hmm.. never considered that aspect. Recently, I ventured into one. Must have been very early in the morning, and woke up afterwards remembering what it was..later on, I was very upbeat for the whole morning thinking about it and analyzing it further, couldnt really disagree with what I was "dreaming". Anyway, I guess "self criticism" can wait, if only we manage to remember what we were dreaming! It will then get its shot. haha.. - Bala
@Jean-Claude, do you have any refs for lucid dreaming stuff? I have been trying to teach my daughter to use lucid dreaming as a way of heading off nightmares before they get bad. It only took her a couple of weeks to "develop" or become aware of watching herself in her dreams, but she's reporting no success when it comes to manipulating outcomes. - Mickey Schafer
Mickey I have some comments here - the most reliable method I use is to count your fingers - if you are dreaming the number will keep changing. If you practice counting your fingers throughout the day you can pick up the habit in your dreams too. Good luck! - Jean-Claude Bradley
Thanks, Jean-Claude! I learned by looking at my hands during the dream. That's how I started teaching my daughter. Counting is more disciplined! - Mickey Schafer
Great Mickey - what do you look for in your hands? Everything is ephemeral when dreaming so fingers are dynamically sprouting and forking - but you still maintain your ability to count. Numbers on one hand range from 3-7 usually. - Jean-Claude Bradley
The book I read that taught lucid dreaming didn't specify to look for anything -- just begin the process by directing your attention to something specific. From there, I guess the assumption was that you could extend the control to other elements of the dream. I read this book when I was 14, so this was a long time ago, and I don't recall anything other than that direction! Is there a relationship b/w vivid dreaming and success at lucid dreaming? - Mickey Schafer
JC, I left a comment at the blog you referenced above. Seemed off topic to continue here! - Mickey Schafer
Mickey - I am surprised that just looking at something would reveal that you are dreaming (unless it is a sequence of numbers or letters) because your assessment of your perceptions is that everything is "real" or "normal" usually. I think that by counting fingers you bypass that perception assessment pathway by forcing objectivity - i.e. looking for number 5. Yes I have noticed some correlation between vivid dreaming and lucid dreaming but it isn't overwhelming - I've had many nights of very vivid dreams without coming close to lucidity. - Jean-Claude Bradley