Ib Extended Essay: Dreams and Memory Consolidation

4525 Words19 Pages
Is there a link between dreaming and the processes of memory consolidation?

Candidate Name: Oscar Louw
School: Wesley College, Melbourne
Date: 6 June, 2010
Word count: 3434

Contents

Abstract …………………………………………………………………………….i.

Introduction ………………………………………………………………………..1.

Body of text…………………………………………………………………………2

Conclusion………………………………………………………………………….6

References………………………………………………………………………….8

Abstract

This essay will pose the question “is there is there a link between dreaming and the processes of memory consolidation?” A review of research and literature in this area was undertaken, focussing on the biological and behavioural studies of the effects of sleep on memory consolidation; the neural structures in which memory processes are
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Secondly, it will review what the different stages of sleep are, and look at studies which indicate that episodic memory is consolidated during non-REM sleep, while semantic memory is consolidated during REM sleep. The essay will examine the role of the stress hormone cortisol, the level of which rises during REM sleep, and which impairs interactions between the neocortex and hippocampus. This is relevant because episodic memory is stored in the neocortex, while semantic memory is stored in the hippocampus. The essay will examine how the content of dreams in all stages fits in with the argument that the neocortex, which stores episodic memory, actively consolidates memory during non-REM sleep, while the hippocampus, which stores semantic memory, actively consolidates memory during REM sleep.

For the most part, this large body of research provides a compelling argument for the proposition that sleep plays a role in memory consolidation and that dreaming is a by-product of this process. However, this view is not universally accepted. Therefore, this essay will also examine the criticisms of this theory, particularly in relation to the apparent lack of positive findings in some studies as well as issues with the methodology used by many of the

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