A neuroscience professor at Texas A&M University, W. R. Klemm, presents his view that we have dream sleep because it is the brain’s way of deciding it has had enough sleep and wants to wake up. Klemm says, “Dreaming is a consequence of trying to wake up. We dream when the sleeping brain goes into an activated stage that can support the semi-consciousness required to generate dreams. No doubt you have seen your sleeping dog have episodes of feet twitching and barking. Brain-wave recording would show the dog is in the dream-sleep stage. All higher mammals do this.” BUT WHY?
Klemm explains that when we first go to sleep, the brain plunges into the deepest stage of sleep for the night. He got to thinking about how the brain gets out of this deep sleep without an alarm clock or some stimulus. Why do we wake up spontaneously? When he first presented his ideas last Fall to his colleagues at the Society of Neuroscience meeting, he called his theory the “Humpty Dumpty” theory. The idea is that the orchestrated neural activity needed to support conscious wakefulness has been obliterated by deep sleep. Like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, something has to put things back together again. “A hundred or more scientists crowded around my poster at the meeting,” he said, “and were intrigued. But many of the foreigners did not know the Humpty fairy tale. So when I prepared the paper for peer-reviewed publication, I called it A Wake-up Hypothesis.”
Klemm had actually proposed a similar theory in 1990, but in working on his ideas on how the brain causes consciousness (published as Atoms of Mind this Spring by Springer), he realized that consciousness and the related dream sleep were generated by unique patterns of nerve impulses propagating throughout brain with special timing relations among brain areas. These patterns are utterly wiped out by deep sleep and are gradually re-constructed in dream sleep. “It’s not easy for a groggy brain to do,” he concludes. The formal publication supports the theory with six lines of evidence, and provides 26 examples of how the theory conforms to the known phenomena of sleep in terms of ontogeny, aging, phylogeny, abnormal/disease states, behavior, and cognition. He claims no competing theory equals this predictive and explanatory power. Ideas for scientists to test the theory are presented.
W. R. Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
College Station, TX 77843-4458
Phone: 979-845-4201, FAX 979-847-8981
Webs: www.cvm.tamu.edu/wklemm (personal site)