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Raymond Tallis: Sleep is still a biological – and psychological – mystery

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Issue 91 cover In “Notes Towards a Philosophy of Sleep” (Philosophy Now, Jul/August 2012), philosopher and neuroscientist Raymond Tallis “takes us from A to Zzzzz.”:

Since all animals sleep, we assume it has a biological purpose. The trouble is, we don’t know what that purpose is. There are many theories – energy conservation, growth promotion, immobilisation during hours of darkness when it might be dangerous to be out and about, consolidation of memories – but they are all open to serious objections. William Dement, one of the leading researchers of the last century and co-discoverer of Rapid Eye Movement sleep, concluded from his fifty years in the forefront of the field that “the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid, is that we get sleepy.”

There is a kind of pathos to our vulnerable, gullible, sleeping selves, and the dreams that something that is ourself and yet not ourself puts together in order to make narrative sense of what is going on in our brains and bodies when they are almost completely disconnected from the world. To meet our insatiable appetite for coherent meaning, we unpack a whole scene out of a sensation, say, or make sense of a sudden movement of a limb by inventing a cliff down which we are falling. The fact that we can make a sort of sense out of whatever is served up to us is an interesting sidelight on the question of the relationship between the real and the rational: whatever we can rationalise may seem real to us, and whatever seems real to us we try to rationalise – with impressive rates of success. The division within our (mind-constructed) dreams between the ‘I’ that is making sense of what is there, and the ‘there’ that is made sense of – so that we can even wait tensely for what happens next – is particularly striking.

Interestingly, this creepy article was the mag’s cover story that month.

See also: Few opponents will debate atheist neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, who is tired of neurotrash And Darwinitis

7 Replies to “Raymond Tallis: Sleep is still a biological – and psychological – mystery

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    At the 18:00 minute mark to about the 22:15 minute mark of this following video, a interesting study is highlighted on the sleeping brain that shows a fairly profound difference in the way the brain ‘shares information’ between different parts of the brain in its sleeping state compared to how the brain ‘shares information’ in its waking state:

    Through The Wormhole – Morgan Freeman – Life After Death – video

    Also of note from the video was this clip in which the sharing of information to different parts of the brain was found to be synchronized, i.e. “entangled”

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video

    Here is a study corroborating such spooky brain ‘entanglement’:

    Brain ‘entanglement’ could explain memories – January 2010
    Excerpt: In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. These patterns of activity, dubbed “coherence potentials”, often started in one set of neurons, only to be mimicked or “cloned” by others milliseconds later. They were also much more complicated than the simple phase-locked oscillations and always matched each other in amplitude as well as in frequency. (Perfect clones) “The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones,” says Plen

    And ‘brain entanglement’ is profoundly different than the ‘normal, close quarters’ quantum entanglement has thus far been found in DNA and Protein structures:

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini & Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.

    Such a different type of entanglement between ‘spread out’ brain entanglement and close quarters DNA and Protein entanglement provides a viable mechanism for the following NDE:

    This following video interview of a Harvard Neurosurgeon, who had a Near Death Experience (NDE), is very interesting. His NDE was rather unique from typical NDEs in that he had completely lost brain wave function for 7 days while the rest of his body was on life support. As such he had what can be termed a ‘pure consciousness’ NDE that was dramatically different from the ‘typical’ Judeo-Christian NDEs of going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension, seeing departed relatives, and having a life review.

    A Conversation with Near Death Experiencer Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D. with Steve Paulson (Interviewer) – video

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Off Topic, new study out from PhysOrg:

    Quality-control mechanism found in bacteria – August 3, 2012
    Excerpt: Like quality-control managers in factories, bacteria possess built-in machinery that track the shape and quality of proteins trying to pass through their cytoplasmic membranes, Cornell biomolecular engineers have shown.
    This quality-control mechanism is found in the machinery of the twin-arginine translocation (TAT) pathway, which is a protein export pathway in plants, bacteria and archaea (single-celled microorganisms).,,,
    “There are no other mechanisms that we’re aware of where the transport machinery itself participates directly in the quality control of its substrates. The discovery [of our research] is … paradigm shifting as far as biological transport machinery goes,” DeLisa said. The TAT pathway is remarkable because, unlike other similar processes, the protein cargo passes through the cell membrane in tightly folded shapes, as opposed to long strings. The pathway allows properly folded proteins to pass, while badly folded or damaged ones are not permitted through.
    (And exactly how does this molecular machine know how to differentiate between the thousands of ‘properly folded’ proteins and the countless millions of improperly folded ones? This is quality control far beyond what man has achieved for his robotic machines!)

  3. 3
    EDTA says:

    During sleep, it is known that neurons in the regions between the senses and the inner mind are “flushed” of noise by positive feedback loops that seem to serve to erase the information in them. The inner mind apparently consolidates the important memories of the previous day. During that process, some part of the mind is allowed to run free, with real or frequently false sensory signals coming in, and fantasies running wild within.

    From a cybernetic point of view (a useful one I think, when looking at the brain), the noise flushing aspect makes sense. Our senses provide terabytes of information to us in a normal day, mostly through the eyes. This information would begin to overwrite existing information in the brain, if not for the temporary respite from sensory input provided by sleep. This makes sense in conjunction with what we know about extreme sleep deprivation in humans, which results in hallucinations, psychosis and loss of memory.

    It appears that sleep is necessary therefore, because of how are brains are designed, with potentially continuous links to incoming sensory information, and neurons that can be continuously updated with new information.

    (From another vantage, sleep places a small limitation on how much evil human beings can carry out in a day…but that’s another topic.)

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    All biology sleeps and so its a common need and probably the same one.
    We are recharging somthing that is being used up during waking time.
    For sure I note sleeping is based on a timetable.
    We are awake and then sleep as a ordered thing.
    Only a special tiredness interferes.
    the sick, the old, the stressed demonstrate they need more sleep then once before and so demonstrate something is being used up more.

    Dreams are not strange but are simply the same thing as when we daydream.
    Our imagination fixes on something.
    iN sleep dreaming we simply are knocked out more and don’t control our imagination .
    Day dreaming is more controlled but powerful enough to still need to force ourselves out of it and into complete awareness around us.

    probably dreaming shows our soul is not our brain. Our soul is stilling thinking but our body is stopping it impact on our brain.

  5. 5
    sergiomendes says:

    Robert Byers,

    “All biology sleeps and so its a common need and probably the same one.”

    also bacteria, amoeba, moss??


  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    No its understood that those don’t sleep.
    Yet we know who do and can conclude its a common biological law.
    So not particular to people.

    What would a non sleeping being look and act like?
    I notice stress instantly can demand sleep in me and so sleep must be about recharging some energy thing.
    Likewise the old or young don’t have this energy thing in full operation or they need it more.
    Perhaps babies wear themselves out by not conserving energy. Not that sleep hekps them otherwise.

  7. 7
    sergiomendes says:

    Robert Byers,

    “What would a non sleeping being look and act like?”

    friend find this from Wikipedia-
    “Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a very rare autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain. It is almost always caused by a mutation to the protein PrPC, but can also develop spontaneously in patients with a non-inherited mutation variant called sporadic Fatal Insomnia (sFI). FFI has no known cure and involves progressively worsening insomnia, which leads to hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states like that of dementia.[1] The average survival span for patients diagnosed with FFI after the onset of symptoms is 18 months.[1]”


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