Dreams Freud Never Had: Dreamstage with Elephants
REM Sleep and Creativity
Dreamstage is re-created on a stage. My friend, the artist Paul Earls, is adjusting his lasers front center. The TV image of the sleeper is on left wall L, where it intersects with Ted Spagna's photographic ceiling slides. The sleeper is in bed back right. I wonder if it will workbasically, if the sleeper will sleep.
Then I remember: It doesn't really matter if the sleeper sleeps.
The scene shifts to an animated film about the brain. A whole brain is seen in 3/4 profile from above left.
Sections begin to be cut away much as if the brain were an apple.
These move away, rolling and tumbling.
When they near the edge of the table, they come to resemble elephants!
Then other sections detach themselves and roll away left.
These too turn into elephants. I marvel at the effect, which I take to be quite easy to reproduce.
Dreamstage, an experimental portrait of the sleeping brain, was an exhibit that first opened at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1977. It toured nationally from 1978 to 1980 and became Dreamscreen in Bordeaux, France in 1982. The exhibit featured a person sleeping naturally in a soundproof chamber in full view of the visiting public. By recording the sleeper's EEG and other brain and body signals, the media artist Paul Earls could display the signals on the gallery walls via laser projections and create brain music via a synthesizer. When the sleeper was in deep, non-REM sleep, the brain music was low-pitched and a green laser showed slow waves; when the sleep was in REM, the music became fife-like with whistles corresponding to side-to-side flickers of a blue laser.
Ted Spagna created time-lapse photographic studies of sleep that revealed a dynamic sequence of posture shifts that coincided with changes in brain state from wake to non-REM to REM and back again. These were projected in lap-dissolve mode on the ceiling. The Swedish graphic artist Ragnhild Karlstrom composed three screen color field images of brain histology that changed continuously on a 40-foot-long wall of the gallery.
The "dark space" of the exhibit, where all these media were displayed, was carpeted and pillowed so that the shoeless visitors could sit or lie down to absorb the imagery. For the Bordeaux show in 1982, I added animated dream drawings and neuronal firing patterns to the dark-space media. In the "light space," the visitors could retrieve their shoes, read storyboard explanations of the science, and see drawings and photographs of the brain and of sleep behavior.
I recorded my Dreamstage dream, which I refer to as "Dreamstage with Elephants," on a Friday morning in the spring of 1982 while sitting in Boston's Logan International Airport, awaiting a flight to Paris. By then, I had discovered that by taking my journal with me on all trips, airport delays could become much more satisfying experiences. High winds raged outside, and my flight was being delayed by at least an hour. I knew I would miss my Charles de Gaulle connection to Bordeaux, where I was to continue my collaboration with French scientists and artists on a new exhibition to be called Dreamscreen. It offered an opportunity to present the imagery of the brain and sleep in a radically new way, and my mind had been working on it as if in a studio. The dream report quoted previously has a summary feel to it, as if important details were already being lost, but I had awakened and immediately committed enough of its very striking content to memory to be able to annotate and draw some of the dream's most interesting formal features.
The period from 1977 to 1984 was one of great ferment for me, my scientific coworkers, and the artists Paul Earls and Ted Spagna. One of our central interests was the autocreative nature of dreaming, and this dream serves as a good doorway into what interested us. Dreamstage and its spin-off projects were not terribly great art in every beholder's eye, but dreaming is fundamentally artistic in its efforts to recombine elements in aesthetically pleasing and original ways, so our marrying of art and neuroscience seems appropriate to me even now.
There is an almost tableau-like quality to the first scene of this dream. The set is hallucinated with many of the familiar Dreamstage elements visualized in a lifelike way. Nothing much happens. I don't move, and Paul Earls doesn't move, as would be likely in a REM sleep dream scenario. My thought processes are more rational than usual in my dreams, but I am nonetheless unable to reason incisively. Emotion is weak, but some anxiety about success is present.
In the second scene, the action picks up a bit, but the imagery is still very limited. I am obviously involved in envisaging new media to help make my points about dreaming and the brain more clear. But what seem like brilliant ideas during the dream turn out to be quite impractical when I wake up. It is only after I wake up that I have an idea that is both feasible and appealing. It is to photograph the brain to show the variety of its surface aspects and mix the images with shots of other natural objects as a way of calling attention to such similarities as these:
cerebellar sections ≈ cedar trees
cerebellar surface ≈ cauliflower
cerebral surface ≈ mushrooms
ventricular surface ≈ sea urchins
By changing the scale and using macrophotography to obscure the context of the flora and fauna, viewers would be unsure what was human tissue and what was not. It might make witnessing the seat of consciousness more appealing.
Indeed, the cerebellum has such a plant-like look that its branching lobes have been called arbor vitae (those cedar trees marking property lines across suburban America). With deep aesthetic pleasure, I have traced microelectrode tracks through this gorgeous cerebral structure. Colleagues and I at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center had to go through the cerebellum to get to the brain stem, where we had good reason to believe we would find neurones of great interest to theories of sleep. This turned out to be true, but because it was so difficult to record in the brain stem, we spent a lot of time in the cerebellum working on the Purkinje cells. These cells transform data about the body's position in space into repositioning commands executed by the brain stem. In the branches of the arbor vitae labeled lobules IX, X, and XI, we found many Purkinje cells that increased their firing rate in conjunction with the eye movements of sleephence the rapid eye movement, or REM, that everyone now associates with intense brain activation in sleep.
I regularly used my neurosurgical skills to implant microelectrode cylinders in the skulls of our experimental animals. Beholding the cerebellum directly, I was often struck by the resemblance of the cerebellar surface, which I beheld directly, to the cauliflower, one vegetable that I, like many children I've known, never learned to enjoy eating but loved to look at.
I had the same aesthetic twinge when I removed the brains of our cats to prepare them for histological sectioning. We used a combination of Nissl Stain, an aniline dye that colors neuronal cell bodies a light blue, and Luxol fast blue, which colors their fiber (or axons) turquoise. For Dreamstage and Dreamscreen, Karlstrom made a three-slide-wide color field display of these and other neurones.
Here, we said, are the business elements of the brainthe neurones. By then, we knew them to be active in sleep. And their activity was continuous, as if the brain were still processing data about position and movement even as we lie unconscious, apparently oblivious, and outwardly immobile in our beds. When our cats entered REM sleep, moved their eyes, and twitched, the brain cauliflowerusually blandbecame truly picante, as if the brain were processing movement data that cannot be outwardly appreciated but is recognized inwardly as dream movement. Many of the dream animations I showed in Bordeaux were attempts by the dreamer to depict the curious movement trajectories of his dreams.
If the cerebellum (which the Italians call the cerveletto, meaning little brain) looks like a cedar tree, the cerebral cortex (which is much bigger and less finely convoluted) looks like a field mushroom. The cortical gyri form hillocks that increase the surface area. These hillocks are wider than those of the cerebellum because there are so many more interconnections between both local and distant neighbors.
I could see these glistening hillocks when I opened the skulls of living animals to implant electrodes specially designed to pick up the internal signals shot from one part of the brain to another during REM sleep. The mushroom-like cortical surface that interested me the most was the occipital (meaning posterior) or visual (meaning excited by light in waking) cortex.
Michel Jouvet had been my host and mentor during the training year I spent in Lyon, France in 1963. I knew from Jouvet's work that very large EEG waves could be recorded from the cortex during REM, but only if one of the electrode tips lay below the cortical surface in the fiber tracts (called the white matter). This was presumably because these REM sleep signals were directed to the cortex from the lower brain in pathways that ran perpendicular to the brain surface. Because they could also be recorded in the geniculate nucleus of the thalamus and the pontine nuclei of the brain stem, these signals became known as PGO waves. The relevance of these internally generated signals to dream vision was immediately suggested. The PGO waves are still the best candidates we have for the role of dream stimulus.
In Dreamstage (19771982), we could not easily incorporate all these important neurophysiological details because we were stressing sleep and dreams in humans. But by the time I was going to Bordeaux, and had this dream, I was trying to do so. I used white-on-black negatives of our oscilloscope tracings to show this activity via the rapid slide change technology afforded by computerization of projectors.
A pedagogical note: The danger of trivializing the complexity of brain parts with plant life was more than counterbalanced by the representation of what goes on under the surface. But that the forms of the surface are homologous to familiar objects such as vegetables makes two important points at once. The first is that nature is economical, using similar forms for different purposes. And second is that we can overcome our distaste for brains by recognizing their similarities to familiar objects.
When visitors to the Dreamstage light space looked at David Scott's 3-D electron microscopic photographs of the brain's ventricular surfaces, it was impossible not to think about the form of tidal pools seen on rocky coasts. The ventricles, which are fluid-filled cavities around and within the brain, appear smooth to the naked eye. But the scanning electron microscope shatters that illusion, revealing instead a dense and variegated array of strange plants and bizarre animal forms. There are the cilia, which beat to keep the cerebrospinal fluid moving, and there are large tentacular creatures, looking for all the world like extraterrestrials, that might function to keep the surface clean, like an automatic swimming pool vacuum.
What does all this have to do with sleep and dreaming? Nothing that we know for certain now, but it seems unlikely that this fluid-filled system functions only to cushion the brain against shock by keeping it afloat. The brain's canals, lakes, and rivers are available for transport too. So even if cushioning is a primary function of the fluid, we would be surprised if crucial molecules were not traveling up and down those cerebral waterways. We know, for instance, that many serotonin-producing neurones of the brain stem send axons toward the ventricular surface, where they end. Is serotonin secreted into the ventricles? We know that fluid from the brain stem, which contains the NREM-REM sleep oscillator, has access to the ventricular surface of the hypothalamus (which my Harvard colleague Cliff Saper has shown to contain the sleep/wake switch). These structures communicate with one another more rapidly and reliably by projection fibers than they could by fluid transport. The slower, smoother fluid route might serve to round off the rough edges of abrupt state transitionssuch as waking up or falling asleepthat seem to take minutes (or even hours) for us to accomplish.
I nod to Freud and his relentless focus on sexuality in relating my weirdly salacious idea to match brain images with ambiguous photo images of the body surface, as follows:
Cortical gyri Lips, fingers
Colliculi Thighs, buttocks
Cerebral aqueduct Navel
This analog has been on my mind for some time. Whether my Dreamstage dream has anything to do with my imagining them on my way to Bordeaux remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the photographic ambiguity I am contemplating might depict many of the surface similarities that I have noticed as I work on the brain.
The cortical gyri look enough like lips and fingers to create visual confusion by breaking contextual and scalar rules. Fingers and especially lips are sensual structures, a feature not usually associated with the brain. Yet while the brain is the seat of all sensuality, its surface structure is also sensual. Some may find this gratuitous, but the experience is real enough. In any case, my goal is to share the experience of scientific discovery with the people who have paid for it all, not exclusively my parsimonious peers.
The colliculi are particularly seductive hummocks that sit like thighs or buttocks on a hill above the midbrain. I used to marvel at them when, having removed the anterior lobe of the cerebellum, I could direct instruments into the brain stem using the opening of the cerebral aqueduct as a landmark. They were so plump, so beautifully rotund, and so well lubricated by their own juice, I wanted to say, "Here are the colliculi! Aren't they wonderful looking?"
The colliculi represent nature's first go at creating a cerebral cortex where signals from the outside world could be processed. In this area, auditory signals to the inferior and visual signals to the superior colliculi are evaluated in the service of redirecting attention. So, return your attention to this page and stop being distracted by the birds outside the windowdo the bidding of the colliculi, the little hills of the brain.
The opening of the cerebral aqueduct is the gate of the canal linking the third and fourth ventricles of the brain stem. It sits there, pouting, like puckered lips, and like some people's belly buttons, all obscure objects of desire if we follow Bunuel closely. Portals all, between one part of the self and the other.
The pituitary glands at the stalk of the cerebral aqueduct make up a structure that is recognizably phallic. It should not, therefore, be surprising to learn that this structure is, among many other important things, the producer and distributor of molecules that are crucial to growing body parts that are necessary for successful reproduction. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinimizing hormone (LH) are essential to the development of secondary sex characteristics. They are both produced in the hypothalamus and stored for delivery in the pituitary gland. And that delivery occurs in sleep! So does the delivery of growth hormone by which our body mass and its ratio of muscle to fat is determined.
The isomorphism between pituitary and phallic structures thus is profoundly functional as well as structural. And the strict state dependence of hormone release is an unexpected bonus to this analogy. Growth and sex hormone release are 9095 percent sleep-related. It is no coincidence that adolescents, growing at extraordinary rates in a maelstrom of hormonal activity, sleep so annoyingly long and deep.
Dreaming is creative. To the extent that dreaming does not replay whole memories, it stitches together fragments and fills in with newly synthesized mental products. Brain slices that become elephants might not be exemplars from an aesthetic point of view, but they are creative. And throughout human history, people have been waking up and making art from their dreams.
At the time of my dream, I had become so absorbed in Dreamstage that I found it difficult to do laboratory science. It wasn't just the extensive traveling; it was the constant cognitive and emotional stimulation of struggling with a new art form. As Federico Fellini immediately recognized, Dreamstage was closer to theater, with all the energy of thespians putting on a show, than any other art form. I was an amateur in this domain, but the tremendous popularity of the topic and the pleasure of playing in this new medium were with me constantly.
The exhibit was never, in fact, on a stage. There was no true stage at the Carpenter Center, where Dreamstage ran for two months in 1977, and there was no stage in its U.S. traveling phase when it visited six cities from 1978 to 1980. Putting it on a stage in my dream is a sign of the literalness and concreteness of dream thought. I had coined the word Dreamstage to suggest a process more than a physical setting. For me it was the stageor phaseof mental activity where imagination ran wild. And my imagination certainly did run wild in my dream that night.
Paul Earls was not a part of the Bordeaux installation because neither the organizers nor I felt that the laser projections of the sleeper's EEG, EMG, EOG, and EKG were scientifically satisfac-tory. We knew we could project physiological signals directly as part of the giant video image of the sleeper, and that is what we did in Bordeaux. But my dreaming mind didn't take account of that change: It put Paul there, adjusting his lasers. Paul was my first Dreamstage collaborator and by far my most active coworker in the planning and producing of the Carpenter Center exhibit. So his presence in the dream is emotionally salient even if it is out of date. In Bordeaux, I was much more on my own. Via images and words, I wanted to explore new ways of telling my story.
Ted Spagna's time-lapse animations of the nights of sleep of his family and friends were always fascinating and entertaining. And although Ted didn't go to Bordeaux either, I took his slides with me. They had the same powerful effect on the French visitors as they had on Americans. The technique of time-lapse photo- graphy had been accessible since the work of Edward Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey in the late 19th century, but Spagna was the first to use it extensively and successfully to photograph sleep. In my dream, the overlap of Ted's Circular Projection Screen and the video image of the sleeper was a device of my dream devising. Psychoanalysts might call this a condensation and assign a defensive function to it, but it is more simply seen as a purely cognitive condensation. My mind saw these two media as superimposable, and they certainly areeven if we never superimposed them in the reality of the exhibit. My dreaming brain-mind has become quite concrete in its linking of associatively related images.
Putting the sleeper in a bed in the back corner of the stage is also a dream choice that the waking mind would immediately reject. We always knew that the sleeper had to be central to whatever exhibit design we chose, because we wanted no possible misinterpretation of the human source of the live data. In Cambridge, the sleeper's visible room was in the center of a wall; in the U.S. traveling show, it was a two-window lozenge in the center of a circular space. In Dreamscreen, it was a cube in the center of the space, but its large roof did serve as a "stage" for the video and other projection equipment. This included animated dream drawingsand their synchronized texts (translated into French). That marked the first time we had actually introduced dream content into the exhibit. It worked beautifully. My dream omitted this important modification.
Just because I wanted Dreamstage to be theatrical doesn't mean I was unconcerned about the scientific integrity of the content and the didactic efficacy of the media. The central messages that I hoped to get across were two: that in sleep the brain was internally activated, and by understanding the brain's activation in sleep we would learn more about dreaming.
In April 1977, when Dreamstage opened at the Carpenter Center at Harvard, Robert McCarley and I had already published our two back-to-back articles in Science about the brain stem's role in sleep cycle generation, and our two articles on the brain-based dream theory were about to be published as lead pieces in two successive issues of The American Journal of Psychiatry. We had worked hard. We had come up with novel findings and proposed new models. I wanted the world to notice. But I didn't want to confuse the world as I tried to educate and promote brain science.
From beginning to end, the Dreamstage exhibit at Harvard included a bona fide sleep lab. The center of the exhibitand our new sciencewas a real person, sleeping in a real bed, in real time. The sleep had to be natural, so no sedatives or drugs of any kind were used. If the sleepers followed my rule not to sleep anywhere else, they all were able to sleep in the exhibit chamber with hundreds of people watching them.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. When the father of our Carpenter Center sleeper read about the show in The New York Times, he correctly guessed that it was his son who was the star of a show that, for various reasons, was open in the daytime. Since he was paying MIT a hefty tuition fee, he was so vexed about his son missing classes for a month that he came to Boston unannounced to confront me and our star directly. Fortunately, our sleeper was no longer a minor and thus was free to work for us if he saw fit.
When we opened our road version of Dreamstage in San Francisco's Exploratorium a year later, I had a more severe scare when our West Coast sleeper, whom I will call Janice, told me she thought we were sending her mind-altering messages through the EEG waves! Janice was a graduate student in psychology at Stanford. She had taken my injunction against sleeping elsewhere so seriously that she had sleep-deprived herself into a paranoid psychosis. This was alarming in itself, but when Janice told me that she had misconstrued her unfastened seat-belt buzzer for a pursuing state trooper, I advised her to go home and get some sleep.
But sleep in the exhibit all those young Dreamstage sleepers did. For visitors who wanted only an impressionistic image of sleep, Paul Earl's synthesizer music and laser projections were drivenonlineby the sleeper's brain waves so that the deep, non-REM sleep periods that occur early in a sleep bout could be seen as high-amplitude green laser wobbles on the wall and heard as basso rumbles in the music.
And every 90 to 100 minutes, like the clockwork that it is, the brain activation of REM sleep could be perceived by a shift to lower amplitudes in the green laser trace and a shift to higher-pitch registers in the music. To these signs, we added a blue laser plot of eye position that zigged and zagged with the REMs and triggered a whistle from the synthesizer. Anyone, even a psychoanalyst, could tell what sleep stage was being broadcast simply by looking and listening. We didn't have to label anything.
For those who wanted technical detail, we provided it by means of standard EEG brain waves, eye movement, and muscle potential tracings on an ink-writing polygraph. Our open sleep lab came complete with a trained technician who demonstrated the data and explained the niceties of scoring sleep records. Most people preferred to lie down on the soft floor, lay their head on a wedge-shaped pillow, and let the exhibit itself do the talking.
Outside this dark space of sleep and brain phenomena, explanatory material also was presented in what we called the Light Space of Scientific Documentation. One theme of the light-space media was "The Scientist-as-Artist," in which I emphasized the aesthetic nature of many of my colleagues' observations. One of the most exciting of the scientific storyboards was made by my Dreamstage collaboration with the photographer, Ted Spagna. His photos of sleepers made with the boom-mounted Zeiss Ikona time-lapse rig he had put togetherrevealed a clear-cut pattern of posture change during sleep. People were likely to toss and turn only if they were having trouble falling asleep or when their brains were switching into and out of REM after they fell asleep.
We confirmed these observations and their organizing hypothesis at the Boston Museum of Science installation of 1980, when we were able to study the sleep of several subjects recruited from the cadre of hospital night workers who sleep in the daytime and are comfortable with technical instruments such as a polygraph.
Twenty years later we now can study subjects sleeping at home using the Nightcap portable staging system that grew out of Dreamstage. We added a piezoelectric bandage that the subject applies to his eyelid. Along with the forehead-based accelerometer, which is sensitive to trunk rotation, we can now diagnose wake, NREM, and REM sleep with sufficient accuracy to conduct field studies of the cost and multiples of the yield of standard sleep lab studies.
Dreamstage thus proved to be much more than the publicity stunt it set out to be. As with my teaching and writing, I learned that changing the context of work and the language used to express concepts, data, and theories changes the methods and scope of science as it evolves. For example, it became clear that via the reach of the Nightcap we could study the mental states of our subjects around the clock. This meant we were studying not only the states of sleep but also the states of waking. And this meant we were after much more than a mere brain-based theory of dreaming, but a brain-based theory of all conscious states. The study of sleep and dreams is only an integral part of the study of consciousness. What is consciousness? How is it made? And what is it for?
At the Harvard installation of Dreamstage, we had to enclose the sleeper. It was difficult to create conditions favorable to sleep inside our sound-attenuated enclosures. We never tried setting the sleeper out in the open as in my dream. And this dream percept makes me worry. Will the sleeper sleep? The anxiety is immediately dismissed by my recall of the deliberate determination not to care if the sleeper slept in Dreamstage. We just couldn't afford to worry about that, and we told the sleepers not to worry either. Their job was to stay awake while not in the exhibit. If they did that job well, I was sure that sleep would take care of itself. And it did. So this dream is clearly about the new exhibit, but it is not brilliant in suggesting any new configuration. If anything, it has lost ground, because the exhibit is represented so loosely and erroneously.
I was not consciously aware of these defects, so I cannot explain the scene shift to brain animation, but I do know that my mind was often playing with novel ways to exhibit the brain. At the time of this dream, I had already begun to assemble films made by other neuroscientists. One, by Bob Livingstone, showed a brain being sliced away in a speeded-up time-lapse sequence that enabled the viewer to walk through the brain from stem to stern.
But my dream brain is considerably more rambunctious than Bob Livingstone's film brain. It shows dream animation more than it shows filmic animation. The dream brain pieces have a life of their own! They detach themselves and roll away, turning into elephants as they go! In this respect they resemble Clinton Woolsey's animalculi, images of the body surfacein the brainthat I had included in the Dreamstage Light Space as a way of showing other scientists' aesthetic responses to the brain.
One of the easiest ways to understand the value of a formal analysis of dreams is to consider the discoveries we have made by focusing on dream movement. Of course, detailed content analysis could come up with the same findings, but it hasn't. We think that is because physical movement is considered commonplace if it is not overlooked entirely.
Our own sensitivity to the pervasiveness and exotic nature of dream movement was conditioned by finding activation of brain movement systems wherever we looked in the brain of REM-sleeping animals except for the final common path motorneurones. They were turned off by active inhibition. It was this gate preventing motor output that Michel Jouvet and his collaborator, François Michel, picked up as the complete loss of muscle tone during REM in early animal experiments. Were it not for this disconnection between the outside world and motor pattern generators of the upper brain, we would all get up and act out our dreams the way Michel Jouvet's cats did and the way some fellow humans do when this inhibitory motor gating mechanism is damaged.
We always imagine movement in our dreams. And we are generally at the center of the fictive reality. My Dreamstage dream begins with a first-person-centered vision of a three-dimensional dream space. In the second part, the animation is embedded in the objects I want to manipulate. Animation thus is the order of the dream as much as it is the order of the film.
Until I looked for movement descriptions in REM sleep dreams and found them everywhere, I greatly underestimated their prevalence. I have therefore changed my language to emphasize visuomotor imagery rather than merely visual imagery. The fact that upper brain motor systems are activated in REM and the fact that there are REMs in REM sleep clinch this point and change forever our view of dreams as mere replays of waking experience.
The new view of dreams as the conscious experience of integrated visuomotor activation in sleep helps us understand not only the mechanisms of onirogenesis but also the developmental and plasticity hypotheses of REM sleep function. We are a long way from Freud's notion of the brain-mind as a reflex engine doomed to repeatedly shrink in horror from repressed wishes. Our REM sleeping brains and our REM sleep dreaming minds show us, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are much more complicated, much more interesting, and much more resourceful than Freud's reflex model suggests.
While we are asleepin our beds or in our mothers' belliesour brain-minds are creating a fictive universe. This creativity makes us agents in understanding our worlds from a very early time in our developmental life. And we return to this fictive world for considerable amounts of time throughout our lives.
My dreaming mind is seduced by its own creativity. It is certainly bad judgment on my part to think that such an animation effect as my brain-slice elephants would be easy to produce in the real, waking world. Dream visualization is deceptive because it is so easy, so plastic, and so dynamic. When I wake up, I realize how difficultor even impossibleit would be to achieve these special effects.
The point of such a project would be to show that brain-like structures are everywhere. Look around you and you will see how natural a creation the brain really is. And it is yours! This was the mission of Dreamstage. Sleep is everywhere. If you will just look at it, you will see its internal dynamism. Dreaming belongs to everyone. Just pay attention to your dreams, and you will marvel at your own creativity.
As is often the case when I am about to leave for France, my dream language begins to assume a Gallic flavor. In France, I announce that the Brain is Not a Choux-fleur (even though it looks like a cauliflower) and the Brain is Not a Piece of Fromage (even though it can be sliced like cheese). Once I arrive in France, I begin dreaming in French, but the subject matter still does not fit the local conditions at all well.
This dream attempts but fails to solve a design problem for the third manifestation of Dreamstage. On the eve of my departure for France to participate in a two-week planning session with my French collaborators, the dream contains none of the innovative media that were developed in Bordeaux. In fact, most of these innovations had already been conceived but did not appear in the dream at all! So my dream is out of date. So much for the practical creative power of dreams with respect to real-life problems. But the failure to affect reality does not mean that dreaming is uncreative.
One novel feature of Dreamscreen in Bordeaux was the spatial setting, a 15-meter-on-a-side cube of space in the L'Entrepot Lainé, an 18th century wine warehouse that was placed at our disposal by Roger LaFosse, the artistic and administrative director of Sigma. A second was the addition of 1,500 high-quality neurophysiology images, hand-painted as reversed negative slides by Marie Tancrède in my lab in Boston. These images were made to dance on one of the five Dreamscreen screens in the space above the sleeper's cube by Gerard Lion's ingenious computer-driven projection display. The dream drawings were animated to show dream movement, and the corresponding dream reports were played through speakers in the pillows where visitors could lie, look, and listen to these fascinating reports.
This dream is evidence against the theory that dreams function to solve problems. Not only does the dream not solve the problems it poses, but it ignores solutions that have already been made. The brain-form slide show might be worth a try, but I had already thought of that before dreaming about it. My dream about it was no more creative and considerably less critical than my waking consciousness. As is often the case where dream function is concerned, negative examples such as this one usually are not put forward.
Fortunately, Dreamscreen had a much brighter future than was envisaged here in my dream! This example shows that dreaming often parallels life experience but is quite different from it. It has long been held that dreaming is a replay of memory. But this dreamand Freud's Irma dream, for that mattershows that dreams represent only short memory fragments, not whole waking scenarios. Our systematic studies of dream memory indicate that less than 4 percent of dream content is actually a replay of waking experience. So what is going on?
What is going on is a matching of emotional salience and the myriad of real and imagined details requiring design resolution for the Bordeaux installation. In this case, my concern and apprehension about my performance as the director of Dreamstage are the emotions that drive the dream. My mind is indiscriminate and overinclusive in dredging up old ideas and spinning out new ones. But this very prolificacy guarantees the association of all these ideas with the emotional vector of my voyage. Far from disguising unacceptable impulses, this dream reveals the plenitude of possibilities that are tied to my hopes and dreams for Dreamstage.