Waves of the Unconscious: The Neurophysiology of Dreamlike Phenomena

Waves of the Unconscious: The Neurophysiology of Dreamlike Phenomena and Its Implications for the Psychodynamic Model of the Mind

This paper reviews scientific literature on four subjective states: the dream state, the dreamy state of temporal lobe epilepsy and temporal lobe stimulation, the acute psychotic state, and the psychedelic state.

Evidence is cited showing that underlying the emergence of dreamlike phenomena in all four states is the occurrence of high-voltage bursts of theta and slow-wave activity (2–8 Hz) in the medial temporal lobes. The medial temporal regions are recognized to play an important role in memory and emotion. In the dream state, medial temporal lobe bursts are tightly correlated with PGO waves.

It has been widely speculated that PGO waves are direct neuro-physiological correlates of dreaming. On a phenomenological level, the dream state, the dreamy state, the acute psychotic state, and the psychedelic state have all been viewed as conducive to the emergence of unconscious material into consciousness.

An argument is made that bursts of electrical activity spreading from the medial temporal lobes to the association cortices are the primary functional correlate of discharging psychical energies, experienced on a subjective level as the emergence of unconscious material into consciousness. The implications of these findings for the scientific legitimacy of the psychodynamic model are discussed.

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