Dreams have been the subject of rigorous study for years, well before the modern shape of psychology allowed for a more structured and accurate approach. Unlocking the secrets of why and how we dream, as well as chasing after other important sleep-related questions, may help therapists, doctors, and other professionals see more clearly into the health and well-being of a client, and identify areas for improvement. Investigating the role of dreaming in the process of learning and understanding new information, a team from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has found that dreams can be important for improving upon newly-learned tasks and abilities.
The study involved just under one hundred participants, all of whom were assigned to play a maze-based computer game for an hour. The game required participants to navigate through the maze in certain ways to arrive at endpoints with the fastest route possible. After finishing this task, a study group was instructed to take a ninety minute nap, while a control group was involved in quiet and leisurely activities that nevertheless involved staying awake. When all participants had either napped or taken a wakeful resting period, they were given the task of completing the maze again, and researchers found that an interesting difference in performance appeared between the study and control groups.
Those participants who had taken a nap and who also reported dreaming about some aspect of the maze game showed a dramatic improvement in performance over those who did not sleep. The improvement in performance was also present between those who slept and dreamed about the game and those who slept but did not have any such dreams. Even those in the control group who reported thinking about the game did not realize an improvement comparable with that of the dreaming group. The results shed light on how the brain may use dreaming as a tool to process or encode information, an exciting discovery that researchers note warrants further study.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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