Sunday, 19 May 2013

The structure of life: waking and (two types of) sleeping

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Life is a unity - it is not just waking life. And it is divided into three mains parts.

It is divided in order that basic functions may be performed more efficiently -  since specialization allows for increased efficiency; however, the parts are complex and subdivided, and there may be dissociations - the three parts may become mixed or partial.

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The three main functional parts of life are Awake, Deep Sleep and Dreaming Sleep.

(Deep Sleep is also called slow wave sleep and non-REM sleep; Dreaming Sleep is also called Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep.)

Information processed by the brain is two main types: instinctual or 'built-in' and environmental or experiential - i.e. added during living consequent upon interaction between the organism and its environment.

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Awake

When awake, a person interacts with the environment - that is, they are in sensori-motor contact with the environment: getting information via the senses and acting via movement.

Brain activity is open-ended and linear - non-repeating, progressive. Brain waves show disorganized, unpatterned activation

There is awareness of time, and there is typically memory - a record of awake experience is available to introspection for some time afterwards.

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Deep Sleep

The person is mostly cut-off from the environment: information comes from within, there are no purposive actions.

Brain activity seems to be cyclical, recurrent patterns revealed as various types of slow waves on electroencephalogram.

There is no awareness of time (because processing is cyclical, not linear), and no explicit memory of what has happened in Deep Sleep.

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Dreaming Sleep.

The person is mostly cut-off from the environment: information comes from within, there are no purposive actions.

Brain activity is open-ended and linear - non-repeating, progressive. Brain waves show disorganized, unpatterned activation.

There is awareness of time (because processing is linear), and typically no explicit memory of what has happened in dreaming sleep (however, there may sometimes be a partial memory of some of what happens in Dreaming Sleep, and these are dreams).

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We know, introspectively, that Dreaming Sleep is different from Deep Sleep because in Dreaming Sleep we are aware of time, and we may remember a progressively unfolding and non-repeating narrative - i.e. a dream.

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In sum:

Waking is a linear interaction with the environment unfolding over time - this interaction is the focus of awareness, and there may be explicit memories of this acquired information;

Deep Sleep is a cyclical, and therefore timeless, non-linear state focused on recurrent processing of internally generated information (instinctual and from memories);

Dreaming Sleep is a linear state of interaction with internal information unfolding over time - explicit memory of this linear process is possible but not necessary, because internal information comes-from memory (and instinct) and has therefore already been memorized (or was built-in): therefore we do not need to remember dreams.

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So, leaving-out instinct, this simplifies to:

Waking = Linear interaction with environment = Experience being laid down in memory

Deep Sleep = Cyclical interaction with memory

Dreaming sleep = Linear interaction with memory

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5 comments:

Wm Jas said...

Information processed by the brain is three main types: instinctual or 'built-in' and environmental or experiential - i.e. added during living consequent upon interaction between the organism and its environment.

You only mention two types here. Is "three" a typo, or is there a third type you forgot to mention?

Thomas Raab said...

How does this (seemingly traditional) outlook on sleep and memory, relate to your earlier (more controversial?) thoughts on sleep and memory? aka Sleep Elaboration-Awake-Pruning (SEAP): http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.dk/2009/04/sleep-elaborationawake-pruning-seap.html
Can they be reconciled - or are they alternative explanations?

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - that was an incomplete edit (now corrected) left-over after I decided to de-emphasize instinct in this particular posting (for the sake of clarity).

@TR - It is compatible - but would require to be re-expressed in systems theory terminology.

Since nobody else uses this terminology, I have expressed it here in terms of the conventional idea of the brain making 'representations' of the environment, and memory being a storage of these representations.

So this view has it that information comes from the environment and is selectively stored in the brain; whereas what really happens is almost the opposite - during the different types of sleep, different types of 'memory' are elaborated, and these are selectively suppressed during the waking phase.

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One thing I have left out here is any mention of 'supernatural' interventions, or revelations of information; which most societies have believed are more frequent during sleep. That will need separate discussion.

alexi de sadesky said...

Bruce,

Do you see this fitting in with Sheldrake's Theory of memory?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ads - No, I don't think so. Well, I'm not sure...

I am assuming that the soul is incarnate - and therefore connected to the body and mind (including memory), but standing behind them.

I suppose, strictly, this does not say anything about the spatial location of the soul and mind/ memory so long as they are bound together...

Because Sheldrake has never spelled out the exact Christian implications of his work, it is hard to know exactly what he thinks about these things.