A study explains why our dreams are so strange

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A new study brings up a hypothesis to explain why we dream and especially why our dreams are so strange.

Science has sought for decades to explain dreams, why we dream, and why our dreams are so strange. In a new study published in the journal Patterns on May 14, 2021, Erik Hoel, professor of neuroscience at Tufts University (Massachusetts, United States), advocates a new theory, that of the overfitted brain.

Here, the researcher used artificial intelligence (AI), a technology inspired by the functioning of the human brain of its neural networks, which reacts to new situations using data from previous situations. But this technology has its limits: after a while, the AI begins to assume that all the data it contains is a perfect representation of what is happening. Scientists manage to solve this problem by inducing chaos in the data, or causing certain data to be ignored, at random.

Professor Hoel cites the example of automatic cars. He recommends imagining a black box that would appear on the internal screen of an autonomous car. His artificial intelligence will have to deal with this lack of data and focus on the entire screen rather than the black box. What does this have to do with our strange dreams? Well, they would act in a way like this black box: they would be there to thwart the data, to bring in a little "mess" and allow the brain not to "rest on what it has learned."

The purpose of strange dreams would therefore be to make our understanding of the world less simplistic and more complete, because our brains, like deep neural networks and AIs, also become too familiar with the data provided by our daily routine. . Therefore, the brain creates a strange version of our world in our dreams. "It is the very strangeness of dreams in their divergence from the experience of reality that gives them their biological function", estimates the researcher. Proof of the veracity of this hypothesis for Professor Hoel: a task performed repeatedly throughout an entire day often leads to an over-tuning of the brain resulting in strange dreams around the same task.

"Life is boring sometimes," the researcher added in a statement. "Dreams are there to prevent you from imitating yourself too much in the world," he concluded.

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