Connect with us

All Articles

LectureHop: Your Dream Lecture

What happens to a dream deferred? Mark Hay, Bwog’s Oneirologist-in-Residence, will attempt to use his meager talents to convey the jaw-dropping revelations and gut-busting humor of the evening’s lecture, “Brain Neuromechanisms of Dreams.”

We begin, as all dreams must, with Sigmund Freud, the first man to create a “science” of dreams, although as Solms notes, “his method was shit.” Those few who followed Freud’s theory of dreams – i.e., that dreams represent some suppressed vision of our deepest (usually incestuous or sexual) urges creeping out while our sense of reason sleeps – became psychoanalysts. Unfortunately, as Solms notes, “Most of them were Central Europeans, and many of them were Jewish, and there was this chap named Hitler who didn’t like them.” So the psychoanalysts left and came here to America, contributing to the 1950s rise in prominence of psychoanalysis within the field of psychology and dream study. (This, ironically, resulted in a longstanding Freudian penis inferiority complex for the mental sciences.)

And so it stood until someone noticed a nearly one-to-one correlation between rapid eye movement, brain wave spikes, and reports of dreams. Scientists soon decided to take a hack at isolating dreams in the brain and began slicing away at cat brains. It was not until he sliced into the pons, “a pretty fucking basic brain structure,” that he managed to stop REM, presumably finding the “dream switch.” These random pons firings, which were increased in sleep, would wreak havoc with the sensual, experiential forebrain, producing chaotic images tied together vaguely into dreams. And with this discovery, Freudian theory was pronounced dead.

And then came Solms who, as a doctoral student, made some amazing discoveries while studying sleep and the forebrain: he found five coherent individuals who had lesions of the pons but could still dream. Frantically he searched the literature for cases of pons lesion victims who could not dream. There were none. “I nearly fell off my chair,” Solms recalls. “Mind boggling…”And with this discovery, the REM-dream relation was pronounced dead.

To summarize a lengthy process of lesion studies and literature review: Solms eventually isolated dreams to spikes of activity in a system connected with desire, the reward systems of our brains; several times a night, this desire pathway “lights up – woaaaaaa! – like a Christmas tree and makes you want to party.” Solms describes this experience as such: “If any of you have been naughty enough to snort cocaine, you know what that system does! Feel a little active, a little sexy – that’s what that system does!” It turns out that this is the same system active in hyper-drive for the severely mentally ill and the same pathway damaged in frontal-lobe lobotomies. Attacking this pathway kills motivation, kills hallucination, and kills dreams. So there you have it – your dreams: loosely bundled desire-driven sense episodes, something akin to a spike of cocaine or a psychopathic experience.

Hence dreams may not be so random as we once thought. If dreams are driven by desires, Solms suggests, perhaps they do tell us something about what is on our minds. Perhaps there is meaning to dreams, although rarely if ever incestuous, obscene Freudian meaning. But, Solms suggests, while Freud’s method was shit and his analysis out of order, his basic idea of meaning within dreams may still be alive.

Click to show comments

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published.



  • @Columbia Neuroscience Society If think you would have enjoyed this lecture, there are many more that the CNS hosts throughout the semester. This is just one of several guest speakers they have hosted this school year.

  • thecns says:

    @thecns This event was hosted by the Columbia Neuroscience Society. Email to join our mailing list, and then you will hear about these lectures before they happen!!

  • Ian Kwok says:

    @Ian Kwok Yeah, this was amazing. The room was overflowing. On a side note, I think I left my camera at this event; did anyone happen to pick it up?

  • !!! says:

    @!!! This sounds awesome!! Bwog, why don’t you tell us about these lectures BEFORE they happen?! It would be nice if you posted a little lecture schedule at the beginning of each week…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I second this request

  • Ad

    Have Your Say

    What should Bwog's new tagline be?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

    Recent Comments

    You really expect me to put a nude as my bg in class??????????????? WHAT KIND OF- (read more)
    How To Impress Your Class Crush On Zoom
    October 30, 2020
    Oh goodness This happened to me today but worse becuse my friend scream out "ooouuu you farted!!!" ahh it (read more)
    How To Recover From Farting On Zoom: A Step-By-Step Guide
    October 30, 2020
    I need to know what kind of bread you have. Please. (read more)
    Dress Up As Alma (And Other Statues) For Halloween
    October 29, 2020
    That’s wifey right there (read more)
    Dress Up As Alma (And Other Statues) For Halloween
    October 29, 2020

    Comment Policy

    The purpose of Bwog’s comment section is to facilitate honest and open discussion between members of the Columbia community. We encourage commenters to take advantage of—without abusing—the opportunity to engage in anonymous critical dialogue with other community members. A comment may be moderated if it contains:
    • A slur—defined as a pejorative derogatory phrase—based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or spiritual belief
    • Hate speech
    • Unauthorized use of a person’s identity
    • Personal information about an individual
    • Baseless personal attacks on specific individuals
    • Spam or self-promotion
    • Copyright infringement
    • Libel
    • COVID-19 misinformation