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PSYCH 101 Unit V States of Consciousness

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University of Waterloo
Richard Ennis

PSYCH 101 Unit IV:  States of Consciousness  Sleep Onset: • Physiological: o Heart rate slows down o Breathing is irregular o Muscles relax (sometimes twitch or jerk too)  One theory suggests that the brain is actually testing motor movements during this time of rest o Senses close down (vision first, then hearing, then others)  However, the limbic system’s reticular activating system is still active, allowing some degree of awareness during sleep within the environment • Neurological: o Electrical voltage increase with more diffuse firing throughout the brain • Psychological: o Awareness of time and environment slips away o Control of thought and imagery decreases o Hypnagogic hallucinations  Weird, brief, and unusual experiences just before going to sleep  Tend to be very surprising, involves movement, and red is a dominant colour  Most common hallucination involves falling or steeping out into space REM Sleep: • Eugene Aserinsky discovered that dream occur during periods of wild brain activity and rapid eye movements (REM sleep) • During REM sleep: o HR increases and breathing becomes rapid o Sleep paralysis occurs when the brainstem blocks the motor cortex’s message and the muscles do not move  Also called paradoxical sleep since the brain is active, but the body is not o Genitals are aroused (not caused by dream content necessarily), and continue to be aroused until REM sleep is over Stages of Sleep: • Generally there are 3 levels of sleep (NREM1, NREM2, and NREM3), in which NREM 3 is the deepest level of sleep • The length of REM sleep increases the longer you remain asleep; REM periods get longer as the night progresses o However, as a person gets older, there are more awakenings and less deep sleep, which by extension also means less REM sleep for adults Physiology of Dreams: • Rapid eye movement occurs in infants and all mammals • Reticular activating system becomes active prior to and during REM o The brain is active and the motor neurons of the eyes are excited • Serotonin and norepinephrine levels drop and acetylcholine levels increase o ACI stimulates diffuse areas of brain in unpredictable manner Proposed Theories Explaining the Function of Dreams: • Wish-fulfillment (Psycho-analytical theory): o Dreams provide a “psychic safety value” and express otherwise unacceptable feelings  They contain manifest content (superficial meaning) and latent (hidden meaning) o Criticism:  Lacks any scientific support and also dreams can be interpreted in many different ways • Information Processing: o Dreams help us sort out the day’s events and consolidate our memories o Criticism:  Not completely true since we can dream about things that we have not experienced • Physiological Function: o Regular brain stimulation from REM sleep may help develop and preserve natural pathways o Criticism:  Does not explain why we experience meaningful dreams • Activation Synthesis: o REM sleep triggers impulses that evoke random visual memories, which our sleeping brain turns into stories o Criticism:  If the individual’s brain is turning the random memories into stores, then that still tells us something about the dreamer that is not explained • Cognitive-developmental theory: o Dream content reflects the dreamers’ cognitive development – his/her knowledge and understanding o Criticism: does not address the neuroscience of dreams Content of Dreams: • Dream experiences feel as if they are real • Dreams have a coherent but bizarre storyline • Usually mundane, everyday content o 50% related to recent/repeated experiences • Social, cultural, gender, and geographical factors influence dreams • Can be influenced by external stimuli • Most dreams are in colour • Dreams are often forgotten and are hard to recall upon waking up o By extension, everyone technically dreams, but cannot usually remember all of their dreams • Frightening dreams are called nightmares o Since dreams can convey a full range of emotions, including negative experiences, nightmares occur b/c those negative emotions have seeped into dreams Further Readings from Textbook From Module 7: Brain States and Consciousness Defining Consciousness: • Defined as the awareness of ourselves and our environment o Consciousness allows us to be:  Alert and awake  Self-aware of ourselves  Able to make a conscious decision via free will • Forms of Consciousness: o Spontaneous Forms:  Day Dreaming  Drowsiness  Dreaming o Physiologically Induced Forms:  Hallucinations  Orgasm  Food/oxygen starvation o Psychologically Induced Forms:  Sensory deprivation  Hypnosis  Meditation Cognitive Neuroscience: • Cognitive neuroscience: o The interdisciplinary study of the brain activity linked with cognition (perception, thinking, memory, and language) • Some findings suggest that seemingly unconscious patients have brain responses when doctors have tried to have conversations with them Dual Processing: The Two-Track Mind • Dual processing: o The principle that information is often simultaneously processed on a separate conscious and unconscious tracks • Conscious “high” track: o The mind taking deliberate actions knowing what it is doing  E.g. problem solving, naming an object, defining a word • Unconscious “low” track: o The mind performing automatic actions, often without being aware of them  E.g. walking, processing sensory details into perceptions/memories • The benefit of a two-track mind is that we do not have to think about everyone when we do it all at once o E.g. you can speak without having to think about the definition of each word or chew come and talk while walking • Consequences of having a two-track mind: o Blindsight:  A condition where a person can response to a visual stimulus without consciously experiencing it  E.g. Researcher Lawrence Weiskrantz trailed a blind person walking down an empty hall, and observed that the blind person could stagger around all of the obstacles that he placed on the floor o Selective Attention:  The focusing of conscious awareness on a specifically selected stimulus  E.g. We can focus on a single conversation even when other conversations are going on around us (cocktail party effect) o Selective Inattention:  Refers to the failure to notice part of the environment when our attention is directed elsewhere  Can be in the form of: • Inattentional blindness, which is the failure to see a clearly visible object because attention is directed elsewhere • Change blindness, which is the failure to notice a change in the environment • Choice blindness, which having chosen a preference for something, but then when the thing is switched, the person is not able to notice that the preferred choice was switched Module 8: Sleep & Dreams Biological Rhythms and Sleep: • The Circadian Rhythm: o Refers to the body’s 24 hour cycle roughly matched to the day/night cycle of light and dark o This causes changes to the body over the course of the 24 hour day:  Rise and fall of body temperature  Rise and fall of arousal and energy  Rise and fall of mental sharpness o Daily rhythms vary from depends on the person, as well as their age  Most 20 year olds are more energetic during the evening  “owls”  Most 50 year old adults are more energetic in the morning  “larks” Stages of the Sleep Cycle: • Sleep stages: o refers to distinct patterns of brainwaves and muscle activity that are associated with different types of consciousness and sleep • Sleep cycles: o Refers to the patterns of shifting though all sleep stages over the course of the night o Usually humans cycle through all the stages on an average of 90 minutes • The process of falling asleep: o Yawns occur to give a brief boos of awareness as the brain metabolism is slowing down o Breathing slows down o Brainwaves become slower and irregular o May have hypnogogic hallucinations o Brainwaves change from alpha waves to NREM-1 Factors that Determine Quality and Rhythm of Sleep: • The amount and pattern of sleep is affected by biology, age, culture, and individual variation o Age:  Newborns need 16 hours of sleep, while most adults require 8 or less o Individual (genetics) variations:  Depends on the person, some only need 6 hours others need 9 o Culture:  North Americans sleep less than others; may possible be due to the use of more light bulbs/light pollution in our cities • Rhythm of sleep is hard to shift, but can be affected by light o Light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which is the relaxing hormone Sleep Theories: Psychologists believe sleep may have evolved for reasons:
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