Dreaming is a fundamental, seemingly timeless part of the human experience. For many thousands of years, humans have contemplated, theorized about, and given meaning to dreams.
Ancient cultures paid great attention
to dreams. Among diverse ancient cultures, dreams took on many forms of
meaning and significance. Sometimes dreams were warnings and messages
from gods or divine entities. In some cases, dreams might be evidence of
Dreams were considered a vehicle for predicting the
future, a way to communicate with the dead, a means to travel beyond the
physical limits of the body. Dreams were believed to be both powerful
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, physicians
exploring the complicated emotional landscape of the human experience
gave tremendous attention and significance to dreams. Sigmund Freud
believed dreams were the necessary expression of the unconscious mind, a
vehicle for the mind to explore repressed emotions and desires.
Carl Jung theorized that dreams provided
a means to resolve conflicts between an individual's conscious and
unconscious mind, conflicts that reflected the tensions of both the
individual's internal sense of self and a sense of self in society.
the mid-20th century, scientists were engaged in study of the cognitive
and neurological mechanisms of dreaming, one part of a broader
scientific exploration of sleep.
Today, new technologies enable us to
observe and explore dreaming states in whole new ways.
dreaming remains in many ways a deep mystery.
scientific exploration and attention, we still don't know the answer to the most fundamental question: Why do
For all the study and attention that dreams have received, its
rather remarkable how much we don't know about dreaming -- not only
about its purpose, but also about the mechanics in the brain that make
In this three-part series, we'll explore the world
of dreams, looking at the latest science has to say about why we might
dream, and the mechanics of dreaming in the brain.
We'll examine the
content of dreams, and how dreams may both reflect and influence waking
life. We'll look at disorders related to dreaming, and how health
conditions and some medication can disrupt dreams. Read more: