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Medical Poor memory when sleeping/dreaming

  1. Dec 17, 2009 #1


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    Have you experienced poor memory when dreaming?
    2 days ago I realized I couldn't remember something obvious in my life when dreaming. When I woke up it seemed to me so obvious that I couldn't believe I couldn't remember this while dreaming.
    I don't think it's uncommon, it had happened to me many times but I just didn't notice it.
    What about you?
    Is this a known phenomenon? I couldn't find anything on google about it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2009 #2


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    My dreams have a will of their own. I know stuff or don't know stuff as suits my dream, not as suits my waking mind.

    It would never even occur to me to wonder if my dreams should live up to my sharp faculties when conscious.

    Heck, many people don't even dream colours; does there need to be stronger evidence that your unconscious dreams are not simply a reflection of your brain's full capacity to recall?
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  4. Dec 17, 2009 #3


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    Ah yes you're right about colors.
    I remember in my dream to make a great effort to remember the obvious but couldn't and instead my brain invented a false souvenir, if I remember well. So... it's like there's/re some part/s of the brain that are shut down while sleeping? While others are working... strange.
  5. Dec 17, 2009 #4


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    Well, it may not be that you couldn't remember; it may be that your dream was trying to tell you something. Or not tell you something.

    In many people's dreams, faces are blurred out because the importance of the dream to you is not about the face or the identity.

    It's piossible that the significance of the dream is a buried anxiety about your own faculties slipping away.
  6. Dec 17, 2009 #5
    Amnesia associated with sleep is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about! It's as you say: some parts of the brain are busy creating dreams, while others are not working so well, or not communicating with each other as well as they would when we're awake.

    Experiences just before sleep are comparatively hard to recall, experiences during brief intervals of wakefulness are often forgotten, as of course are dreams themselves on waking. It's very common for people to mix up bits of their lives in dreams: to forget they've moved house, for adults to dream that they're back at school, etc. I often find myself among people I haven't seen in years--or people no longer alive, or children who are grown up by now--and hardly ever notice anything strange about this. And when I do, I'm liable to quickly forget again as the dream moves on. And even when something does strike me as odd, I hardly ever remember the obvious reason: that I'm alseep and dreaming.

    Our minds are also good at inventing false memories in dreams or spurious reasons to explain any inconsistencies we might notice, reasons which can seem convincing in the dream, but ridiculous when we wake up and think about them.

    Even when I have a lucid dream (a dream where I do realise that I'm dreaming), I find it's all to easy to get distracted and forget again. Once, in a lucid dream, I stuck my hand in a clump of nettles in a dream to find out whether they'd sting; they did, but only for a couple of seconds. It was as if my dream-hand had forgotten that it was meant to be hurting.

    I think memory impairment in dreams is too universal a phenomenon to read any personal meaning into just the fact of experiencing it.
  7. Dec 19, 2009 #6
    But memory can be exceedingly sharp when it wants to be, and across waking/sleeping boundaries too.

    I have a halting grasp of conversational Chinese (thanks to my wife). I once dreamed that I was speaking good Chinese continuously and mellifluously and, as I was speaking, I was (in the best Sartrean-reflexive manner) consciously analysing the grammar and syntax of each sentence and thinking: yes, this is all stuff that I have studied and memorised at some time during wakefulness; so why can't I speak Chinese like this when I'm awake?

    In relation to colours, I suffer with an average degree of the common form of impaired red-green vision. But I once dreamed that I was piloting an aeroplane through one of the great air battles of September 1940. I did not want to be involved in the battle because I was on a mission and I could not afford to be delayed or shot down.

    As I dodged among the aircraft criss-crossing in front of me, I was acutely aware of the precise shades of green, brown, grey, and blue of their camouflage colours. And I remember thinking, how is it that I can perceive these colours with so much sensitivity, when my waking colour perception is so defective?

    Of course you could say that, in my dream, it only SEEMED that I could perceive the colours clearly. That is conceivable, but naturally I will ask, "what evidence can you adduce to support that hypothesis?"

    I suspect that dreaming - like schizophrenia, or like Adam Voges catching a six-hit on the boundary - is just one more of those contexts where the brain (sanely or otherwise) is managing things rather more cleverly and subtly than we really understand.
  8. Dec 19, 2009 #7
    We probably need to make a distinction here between episodic and autobiographical memory, on the one hand, with procedural memory on the other. Life events tend to get garbled in dreams, forgotten or their consequences ignored, but maybe our dreaming minds are better at remembering how to do things than they are at keeping track of what age we are, or where we live, or how many mothers we have...

    Very interesting post about enhanced abilities in dreams, Alan! Me, I'm a musical dunce, but somehow my brain is able to create amazing tunes sometimes in my dreams that, as far as I know, I've never heard in waking life. There's a bit on the 3rd CD of the Beatles Anthology where John Lennon starts playing Strawberry Fields on guitar, then breaks off saying, "I canna do it." Once in a dream, I was listening to that, only instead of breaking off, he carried on with this amazing, fine, fiddly guitar playing. To say nothing of all that unconscious story-spinning and the ability to create imaginary, convincingly immersive (and sometimes downright spectacular) VR scenes that unfold in real time in as much detail as we chose to pay attention to. It makes me think of William Gibson's short story The Winter Market, in which dreams can be recorded, edited and marketed, where there's a comment about all the unconscious talent that went to waste before this technology arrived.

    I've had the experience of speaking fluently languages that I'm not fluent in in dreams, and sometimes I've woken up and been either convinced or agnostic about my performance; other times I wake up with the impression that I've been talking fluent nonsense!

    Without wanting to dismiss your experience, I suppose with the dreams of colours, there's the philosophical connundrum of whether the colours you gave those names to correspond to the colours a person without impaired red-green vision would call by those names.

    DreamBank has a good collection of dream reports, including a group of dream sequences from blind people, including some congenitally blind.

  9. Dec 19, 2009 #8


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    Ah, but were you or did you just dream that you were?

    I'm not being facetious. In my dreams sometimes it seems like I'm actually doing something when in fact my mind is just sort of hand-waving it.
  10. Dec 22, 2009 #9
    i think we dream when we 'suspend our disbelief' (ie shut off a part of our brain)


    i also have a theory that the brain uses a kind of fuzzy logic but with a value of true and a separate value for false so that 100/0=true and 0/100=false and 0/0=unknown and 100/100=paradox. so suspension of disbelief would be eliminating the value for 'false'.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  11. Dec 22, 2009 #10


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    I cannot quite understand the meaning of 'suspend our disbelief' but in relation to the talk of dreams, I am very strong or extreme, ADD and OCD, my thoughts while awake are very focused on certain things and sometimes can be distracted very easily and at other times not.
    I can't seem to recall if I dream in color and only one or two times can I remember dreaming about anything that occupies most of my thoughts during my being awake.
    Some dreams are wild and vivid, most are mostly mild. Some dreams I have never forgotten, while most fade upon awakening or in some short timeframe.

    I have never felt dreams have meaning that should be considered a measure of importance about what is going on in a persons life.

  12. Dec 22, 2009 #11
    when you watch star wars do you sit there going 'oh this is impossible' 'FLT travel is scientifically impossible' 'death stars cant exist' 'theres no such thing as a wookie' etc....?

    if not then you are 'suspending your disbelief'.
  13. Dec 22, 2009 #12


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    Thanks, that makes it clear:smile:
    One of the fun things is finding those almost hidden, yet major flaws. I think McGuyver and Walker Texas Ranger provided more than the rest of film making combined.:bugeye:

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