Remembering the Future of Dream Research

Some of the oldest texts in recorded history are “Dream Books,” dictionaries of dream imagery with interpretations that try to identify recurrent patterns of meaning across multiple dreams. The empirical spirit of these ancient texts can be found today in new technologies of analyzing dream content, which has verified the key insight of dream interpreters through the ages: the more knowledge you have about the basic patterns of human dreaming, the better you can discern the meanings of particular dreams. Recent advances in data science and linguistic analysis have brought the study of dreams to a major historical inflection point, giving present-day researchers the tools to observe the large-scale phenomenology of dreaming with unprecedented scope and detail. To explain what these developments mean and suggest where they may be leading, this presentation will describe several projects using the resources of the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb) to highlight important discoveries that have already been made using these technologies, with practical applications for psychotherapy, artistic creativity, athletic training, spiritual reflection, cultural criticism, and child education. Insights about the future of dream research from writers of speculative fiction (H.P. Lovecraft, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick) will be cited to help in evaluating the utopian and dystopian potentials of technologies enabling people to develop a more dynamic relationship with their dreaming selves.

Digital Dreams: Bringing Psychoanalytic Stereotypes into Multiplatform Worlds

Dreams and sleeping have always been an important part of movies’ narrative which helps to develop the formal structure of a film. Dreams as a part of a film’s plot allow to refine on parallel editing, construct imaginary worlds, find new and intricate ways of visualizing psychology of characters etc.

From rather direct Freudian interpretation of dreams in cinema (for example, pure, yet sophisticated iteration of it is in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Spellbound (1945) with Salvador Dali’s visual design of the main character's dream), scriptwriters and directors turned to more complex and elaborated narrative constructions, demonstrated, among others, in Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) and Inception (2010). The role of dreams in the evolution of the horror movie genre in 1980-1990 is also worth mentioning. The topic of insomnia has appeared to show the deconstruction of the dream’s narrative in cinema and blur the discourse boundaries between a dream and phantasm and nightmare.

In my talk, I am going to focus on contemporary films which use the topic of dreams as the main narrative element. My research question is how technological specificity of digital cinema and the multiplatform mode of the last decade’s media consumption transformed the discourses of dreams in contemporary films.

Towards an Intersubjective Science of Dreams

The overall objective of this presentation on psychoanalytic dream theory and dreamwork is to provide a brief introduction to and overview of the historical development of psychoanalytic dream theory, arriving at a contemporary vision of an intersubjective science of dreams. The arc of the evolution of psychoanalytic dream theory begins with Freud’s pioneering theorizing in his magnum opus, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), takes us through the refinements of Psychoanalytic Ego Psychology and the transformations of Psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory, and arrives at contemporary psychoanalytic theories (Psychoanalytic Self Psychology; Intersubjective Systems Theory; Interpersonal/Relational Psychoanalysis; and Contemporary Intersubjective Systems &  Field Theory, culminating in the “social dreaming paradigm”). The presentation will examine and reflect on the relationship between psychoanalytic theories of dreams and the evolution of psychoanalytic models of the mind. Despite the pluralism, which is often decried as fragmentation, in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic dream theory and the historical fluctuations in interest in dreams, Freud’s prescient assessment of the singular position of the dream in understanding the psyche seems to have endured: “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.” (Freud, 1900, p. 608). The presentation will end with the recounting of two dreams from the presenter’s clinical practice, transparently demonstrating the intersubjective and social nature of the dreaming mind—which psychoanalysis reveals as mirroring the unconscious processes of the human psyche.

Cortisol and nightmares: the role of neuroendocrine stress response

Nightmares are a most prevalent feature of PTSD and other major anxiety disorders. Several studies associate frequent nightmares to an inherent deficit of stimulatory hormone levels, specifically cortisol. The latter is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a neuroendocrine system that regulates numerous physiological processes. The HPA axis is known to be disrupted in PTSD patients who generally manifest lower cortisol levels than control individuals. Nightmares/low cortisol can thus be interpreted as a hallmark of PTSD. In this talk, we present a mathematical model to describe the HPA axis which yields two steady-state configurations:  a "normal" (high basal, normal sleep, cortisol state) and a "diseased" state (low basal, frequent nightmares, cortisol state). The model includes hormonal self-upregulation, release, synthesis; interaction, delay and feedback mechanisms. External input is associated to psychological trauma, while parameter changes represent physiological damage. We show that transitions between the normal and diseased states may be induced solely by external input, with all physiological parameters unchanged, emphasizing the severe consequences of psychological trauma.

Multi-Level Dreamscape Reconstructions from Text Reports

Dreams, when studied both longitudinally and transversally across populations, show repeated patterns of settings, places, characters, objects, and actions. Given a corpus of dream reports automated methods for extracting summary dreamscapes at various levels of granularity are desirable. We will review some of the text mining tools that are available for such purposes and outline some of the open problems.

Maja Gutman

Revisiting our Dreams: Virtual Reality Worlds and Simulations

First person perspective and intense visual impressions are key experiential modes in most dreams. In a convergent development, the latest advancements in virtual reality environments (VRE) technology have demonstrated that almost every theme from the actual world can be re-formed as a computer-generated experience. This technological development inspired us to think about dreams as simulations that can be recreated from their original versions. Our experiment shows that the initial composition of dreams (if the memory recall is sufficient) can be reconstructed as a realistic VR simulation and thus very close to the actual dream experience. The experiment also addresses the question of potential applications of such research tool (such as, diagnostic evaluations, psychotherapeutic treatments) and opens an intriguing view on future dream research where multimodal platforms might play a crucial role.