Archive for September 21, 2006

Horror Movies Then Learn

Modern neuroscience can explain the wisdom of Moses’ pedagogy. From the perspective of our brain, learning and doing are just two different verbs that refer to the same mental process.

Some of the most convincing experimental evidence that learning and doing are inseparable comes, ironically, from the study of sleep. Numerous studies have now demonstrated that sleep is an essential part of the learning process. Before you can know something, you have to dream about it…. The theta rhythm of sleep was just the sound of the mind processing information, sorting through the day’s experiences and looking for any new knowledge that might be important for future survival. They were learning while dreaming…According to Winson, these nighttime stories—that flurry of theta rhythm—were actually carefully scripted events, in which our new knowledge was put to the test. Did our new learning help us solve our invented problems? Was it a good “survival strategy?” If the answer was yes, then the knowledge was woven into the brain. We woke up a smarter person. The rabbit figured out how to escape its predator. We also, therefore, learn by pretending to do…”


Wilson began his experiment by training rats to run through mazes. While a rat was running through one of them, Wilson measured clusters of neurons in the hippocampus with multiple electrodes surgically implanted in its brain. As he’d hypothesized, Wilson found that each maze produced its own pattern of neural firing. To figure out how dreams relate to experience, Wilson recorded input from these same electrodes while the rats were sleeping. He was astonished by his results. Of the 45 rat dreams recorded by Wilson, 20 contained an exact replica of the maze they had run earlier that day. “During REM sleep, we could literally see these rat brains relive minutes of their previous experience,” Wilson says. “It was like they were watching a movie of what they had just done.”
If we dream (and day dream) about the problems we have yet to solve then do horror movies have an added appeal becuase they give the brain new dreams of survival? Do the neurotic learn more becuase they spend more time trying to come up more survival strategies? As we age we learn to “get over” horror movies by differianting between the real and the televised. Is this necessarily a good thing? Aren’t we in essence turning off an important part of the brain every time we decide to not consciously train ourselves to not relive the fear of horror films or are they in essence a new survival strategy themself? If we didn’t see them, we would never learn to distance ourselves from fictions? Do we ever really stop dreaming the problems of film or do we merely fool our conscious into believing we do? Perhaps somewhere in the back of your brain, you’re still running from something on television 20 years ago.

September 21, 2006 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

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