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Do we see dreams?

  1. May 16, 2017 #1
    I was thinking recently that when we dream and it appears to us in the dream that we are looking at objects, I was wondering if this dream vision originates from the same source as normal vision. That is in the waking world when we talk about 'seeing', we mean that photons from the Sun other other sources have reflected off objects and entered our eyes and ended up causing an electrical impulse to travel to a different part of the brain which then appears to us that we 'see' the object.

    So would this 'seeing' while awake, be similar electrical signals going to the same part of the brain as what causes us to appear to see things when we dream? Hope that was clear enough. Or is it a completely different brain mechanism.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2017 #2
    Since I seem to be the first person to post a response, let me say there are three ways those commenting can respond to your question:

    1) If they know the topic quite well, they can give you a brief accurate answer. However one difficulty they will have is to judge what level of depth to provide in their answer, since you have not indicated how much you know about vision yourself, and have also left your profile blank of any information about yourself that might be helpful. They can guess from the nature of your question that you probably know very little; but how little?

    2) If they don't have an exact answer, but are intrigued by this topic (for example if they're like me and have previously read a good deal about dreaming and about vision), they might do a quick Google and find an explanation that seems appropriate, and post it here. But they still will have the difficulty of not knowing how much you do or don't know yourself. Plus they may not actually want to do your work for you, since you too could Google.

    3) They can follow the spirit of the forum & forum guidelines & suggest that you do some preliminary research yourself, before posting such a wide-open question. This is how I am going to respond, in fact, because I think you'll get more out of posting that way.

    One big reason that I'd rather respond this way is that I have read enough about both vision and dreaming, and the neurophysiology of both, to be able to say that your initial assumptions about how vision works are inadequate. So anyone who tried to answer you directly would have to give you some very basic background information even before they get to the part about dreaming; but because you haven't indicated what your background is in biology or in any science at all, they won't know how to shape what they say so you can best understand it. So without realizing it, you're putting a big load on anyone who would like to help you.

    Anyway here are my suggestions:

    First, take a minute to check out this recent Insights article by forum member ZapperZ on why posting with no context isn't the best way to go in PF: https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/little-excuse-ask-question-cold/

    Second, expand your question with some background info: How much do you know about neurobiology, dreaming, etc.? What's your science background in general? Also, why does this question intrigue you & what to you hope to gain from asking? E.g. is it just a one-off, isolated question, or are you very interested in either vision or dreaming, possibly even doing a project of some sort? This will help those who know the topic well & might be inclined to at least give you a "quick and dirty" summary answer.

    Third - and this is optional, but recommended - consider doing at least some minimal research. At the very least this may help you better understand a "quick and dirty" answer if you get one. "Minimum" to me in this day and age means Googling for something like "human vision dreaming" and then patiently sorting through the hits until you get to those which look scholarly. Or perhaps searching in Wikipedia, or in known science sites such as Smithsonian magazine or Nature, etc. Or you can search for books on vision and/or dreaming, whether in your local public or school library or in a bookstore.

    I do have one book recommendation for you, if this is a topic that you're really interested in learning about - it's an inexpensive paperback (also Kindle ebook) in the "Very Short Introduction" series from Oxford University Press. They have a book on vision and also a book on dreaming; the book on dreaming is the one you would want, because it covers how the brain makes vision & other senses available to us while we dream: Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction, by J. Allan Hobson, Oxford U. Press, $8.94 on Amazon US.

    P.S. Also, if you're interested in learning more about research (e.g. if this wasn't something you were taught a great deal about in school), a book I often recommended when I was teaching is The Craft of Research: https://www.amazon.com/Research-Chi...=1494932815&sr=8-1&keywords=craft+of+research
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  4. May 16, 2017 #3
    P.S. I forgot to add - as someone who enjoys reading about both vision & dreams (usually separately), I do like your question a lot, as both these processes are fascinating. So I encourage you to stick with it & maybe flesh the context out a bit more as suggested.

    Here is one way to think about the question that you might find intriguing: "Do blind people see in their dreams?" (This is literally a question that gets discussed in the "Very Short Introduction" book I recommended above.) There is more than one answer, and which answer is correct for a given situation depends on a fundamental aspect of vision.
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  5. May 16, 2017 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    While the responses are much better than the question, the original post is predicated on personal theory. Thread locked.
  6. May 17, 2017 #5

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    ..... reopening the thread.
  7. May 17, 2017 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    @bland are you asking simply if the visual cortex gets activated during REM sleep? Or is your question something different?
  8. May 17, 2017 #7
    A simple answer is no. We don't SEE light reflecting from our eyes when we dream, because there is no image. It's essentially just a stream of memories.
  9. May 17, 2017 #8
    This is inaccurate; and though I'm sure well-meant, not helpful to the OP. Again, given that this is a science forum, it would behoove folks who aren't familiar with the physiology of vision to actually do some reading on the subject before commenting.

    I also suggest folks wait for the OP to get involved again. He is the one who asked the original question; he's been invited at least twice now to clarify; let's give him some time to do so.
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
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