Psychotic Dreams and Strange Extremes

Where do you start with dreams?

People say you’re asleep when you dream, but you’re not really; it’s just that the input you’re consciously processing is generated internally, instead of coming from outside. It’s a kind of consciousness that believes the most ridiculous things, though. Your best friend doesn’t look anything like your best friend actually does in real life. Your girlfriend is a biker chick with three thick hairs the diameter of birch saplings growing out of her head. Doesn’t matter; you recognize them instantly and without the slightest whiff of discontinuity.

You can fly, in dreams.  Converse with the dead. Oozing octopus suckers sprout across your face for no reason. You swallow it all, without reservation, without question. In terms of critical analysis, dreams are the Tea Party of cognitive states.

It’s only upon waking that you realize, in retrospect, how utterly absurd it all was.

The circuits you have to thank for that belated insight lie in a little strip of tissue along the orbitofrontal cortex. They say it acts as a reality-checker, tells you whether the input you’re processing makes sense or not.  It doesn’t always get it right, even when you’re awake; if someone actually does turn into someone else in the middle of a conversation, or if a building really does disappear without warning in the background, you’re not likely to notice it consciously because that OFC censor throws it into the garbage  before you’re aware of it.

Usually the censor is powered down during sleep. Sometimes, though, it works overtime. That’s when you realize, mid-dream, that you are dreaming. That’s when you can take the reins and control the narrative, become the architect of your perceived reality instead of its passive observer-victim.  That’s when dreams turn lucid.

Once I was in a hotel elevator when it went rogue: shot right out through the roof like a cannonball, fifty stories up, and plummeted towards the earth. I realized this made no sense, conjured up a little control panel out of the wall, talked the elevator car— which now had panoramic wrap-around windows— into sprouting stubby little wings, and glided us down to a soft nighttime landing on a coral reef (which we could now explore at leisure because the elevator car also doubled as a submarine. It was awesome).  That’s a rare level of control in my experience, though.  More often I simply remember at the worst possible time that people can’t fly, or the red wagon I’m riding shouldn’t be able to travel in space even if I did tie two lengths of 2×4 onto its gunwales— and suddenly I’m  tangled in high-tension wires twenty meters up, or what I thought was flying turns out to be, on closer inspection, just me hanging off a climbing rope in some high-school gym whose dingy roof and rafters have been coated with a thin layer of blue paint and some cheesy cartoon clouds. Sometimes the recognition that I’m dreaming is more of a Hail-Mary, when I realize that the Thing In The Basement isn’t going to leave me alone and I might as well just get it over with and hurl myself into its maw.  The dream generally changes channels at that point.

Sometimes, though— sometimes dreams are positively inspirational.

Ramanujan was inspired by the Hindu Pantheon. I got inspired by this.

Ramanujan’s dreams were inspired by the Hindu Pantheon. Mine were inspired by this.

Kekulé dreamed the structure of the benzene molecule. Ramanujan swore that the mathematical theorems he derived were served up to him in dreams by Hindu deities.  The solution to my own Master’s thesis came to me in a dream (although I wasn’t nearly as excited by that revelation as I was by another dreamed insight, a solution to the age-old problem of how to build a walking beachball: I had the blueprints right there in my head).

So you are asleep when you dream, and you are awake. Dreams are unconnected to reality; dreams provide fundamental insights into reality. Dreams reduce you to passive observer; dreams elevate you unto godhood.

Or to paraphrase what Corlett et al report in a recent paper that Sheila Miguez pointed me to: dreams make you psychotic.

They mean this in the clinical, not the Gamergate sense: psychotic as in dissociated from reality, unable to distinguish fact from hallucination. (On second thought, maybe they mean it in the Gamergate sense after all.) Perhaps psychotics are merely dreamers who have not awakened, sleepwalkers whose experiences are not being properly filtered through the Orbitofrontal cortex.

Corlett et al looked at two possibilities. On the one hand, a high level of dream awareness might imply a greater grasp of waking reality— if your OFR is so on-the-ball that it even functions when it’s supposed to be off-duty, how much better will it perform during regular business hours? Alternatively, a high level of dream awareness might imply a reduced grasp of waking reality— because lucid dreamers are supposed to be characterized by “thin boundaries”, or a tendency to confuse fantasy and reality. Aspects of waking experience tend to leak across that boundary into the dream state (leading to greater “dream awareness”); but perhaps, by the same token, aspects of the dream state leak back into the waking world across the same semipermeable membrane.

Honestly, this will make more sense if you ignore the official caption and just read my interpretation to the left.

You can click to embiggen. But honestly, this will make more sense if you ignore the official caption and just read my interpretation to the left.

Corlett et al ran groups of lucid and non-lucid dreamers through a repeated series of memory tests;  subjects had to decide whether they’d seen a given image previously in the same experimental run (as opposed to previous runs in which that image might also have appeared). They describe this in terms of  “Signal Detection Theory”, but what it comes down to is the ability to distinguish between recent memories and old ones. A parameter called d-prime scales to the width of the uncertainty zone between new and old. The higher d-prime is, the narrower the zone and the more confident you are in your response. If lucid dreaming indicates an elevated grasp of reality, then lucid dreamers should have higher d-primes.

The other criterion is called, um, criterion— but that’s such a dumb and ambiguous name that I’m just going to call it C. C describes any tendency to make a default guess one way or the other in case of uncertainty.  If, when in doubt, you’re more likely to guess that the memory is old, C<0. If you’re more likely to guess that it’s “new”,  C>0. If lucid dreaming implies a reduced grasp of reality in the waking state, C should be lower for Lucids than for Nonlucids.

(This is the way I understand it, at least.  You can go to the paper for more specifics, but don’t blame me if you end up even more confused.  If it’s clarity you’re looking for, Corlett et al couldn’t write their way out of a fortune cookie if you held a gun to their heads.)

You may wonder what the conclusion would be if lucid dreamers turned out to have both a lower C and a higher d-prime than nonlucid dreamers. I wonder that too; I can’t see what in principle would prevent such a result. The two hypotheses that Corlett et al are testing here are mutually exclusive, but the actual tests are not. Statistically, this leaves me a bit queasy.

Fortunately for the authors, that bullet never fired. They found no difference in the width of the Uncertainty zones of Lucids vs. nonLucids, but they did find that C was significantly lower in the Lucid group (P=0.013), suggesting that Lucids were “more likely to indicate that a picture was familiar to them, even if it was novel.”

So. If you buy this, lucid dreamers have more difficulty than non-lucid dreamers when it comes to distinguishing fantasy from reality. As Corlett et al put it, “individuals with high dream awareness make a pattern of memory errors consistent with an impairment in a reality monitoring process involving the function of the OFC”.

More succinctly, lucid dreamers tend to be more psychotic. Do we buy this?

The Royal We would certainly like to; anyone familiar with my recent work might be reminded of the multithreaded “dream state” I imagine for vampires, or the increasing sense of disreality Daniel Brüks experiences as the conscious wetware is incrementally disassembled during the course of his salvation. Corlett et al embed their findings in all kinds of neurological context— schizophrenia, false memories, the role of dopamine in “reality monitoring”—  that’s pure uncut catnip for the likes of me. They even call up the Default-Mode-Network I invoked a couple of years back to explain my dumb gullible vulnerability to scam artists (and to explore the role of competing neurological subsystems in the production of conscious experience).  They describe déjà vu as a kind of neurological false-positive:

“False familiarity signals have also been invoked to explain Déjà vu and Déjà vecu experiences, which bear phenomenological similarity to lucid dreams – people report the uncanny (and surprising) experience of having had an experience before in their past (O’Connor & Moulin, 2010). This false familiarity is believed to emanate from fronto-hippocampal dys-interaction (O’Connor & Moulin, 2010). These models of comparable phenomena perhaps point to the generality of predictive learning mechanisms in the brain (Friston, 2009) and the consequences of disrupted predictive learning across brain systems (Corlett et al., 2010)…  We believe our data support the idea that dream awareness involves the intrusion of reality onto the dreaming state and that this overlap is also manifest during waking, whereby high dream awareness subjects experience false familiarity for memoranda causing them to make false alarm responses.”

How can I not cream my jeans over all this technobabbly goodness? Think of the extra infodumps that Echopraxia could have contained, if only I’d read these results earlier!

corlett2

What’s wrong with this picture?

And yet. In so very many ways, this paper is just bad. It leaves obvious methodological questions unanswered (even if you squint past the nonexclusive nature of the hypothesis testing, doesn’t the probability of error increase throughout the course of a task?  Isn’t the question “Have you previously seen X during this run?” a lot easier to answer for the first image in a sequence than it is for the last?).  One of the figure captions contradicts the legend in the same figure. The sentence-level writing is, to be charitable, not as clear as it could be. And for all the fancy neurological terminology being thrown around, the study reports no neurological findings (although we’re told that the subjects completed “a series of further neuropsychological tests to be reported elsewhere”).

This was basically a button-pushing test performed on a small (N=57) sample of self-selected male volunteers. Admittedly, even a journey of a thousand miles has to start with a single step— but did it have to be such a timid and slapdash one? Would it have cost anything more than a bit of additional time to— oh, I don’t know, include women in the study, double the sample size, and test for between-sex interactions? Cognitive Neuropsychiatry isn’t the most prestigious of journals, but it’s supposed to be peer-reviewed. Someone should at the very least have caught the figure errors.

This all might be a bit easier to take if Corlett et al didn’t seem to have mistaken their one small step for a Giant Leap for Mankind. As it is, it seems a bit questionable to go from Lucid dreamers slip up more when it comes to remembering how long ago they saw something to the claim that their errors are

… consistent with … patients with neurological damage to the OFC and its connections who  let old memories override or govern current perceptual inputs and they allow memory fragments to intrude upon their current conceptual understanding of the world, generating a set of beliefs about themselves that is bizarre and insensitive to change (Nahum et al., 2009; Schnider, 2001, 2003; Schnider et al., 2005).

Consistent with? Maybe so. But “consistent with” doesn’t necessarily translate into “evidence for”. This deep in the 21rst Century and we still need to keep reminding people that correlation ≠ causation?

Of course, that’s me the former-scientist talking. Me the SF writer is thinking Oooh,  programmable déjà-vu.  Deja-vu and pareidolia.  Pareidolia and intuition and the religious experience.  Maybe Bicamerals can be hacked, I’m thinking. Maybe vampires can be; maybe the connection between dreams and déjà vu and multithreaded dream-state awareness gives us a weapon to use against the Legions of Valerie.

Or a weapon for something to use, anyway. If we’re not around…

So for all their failings, let’s keep an eye on Corlett’s & Crew. Follow their follow-ups. See if hard neurochemistry supports their soft speculation. Draw up battle plans.  Scientist-me says, stay skeptical.

SF me says, Prepare to pillage.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday October 16 2014at 12:10 pm , filed under neuro, Omniscience, sentience/cognition . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

53 Responses to “Psychotic Dreams and Strange Extremes”

  1. I often dream lucidly, and something I find eerie is how life-like the characters in the dreams can be. Indeed sometimes in conversation they’re almost indistinguishable from actual people. If anything has made me consider solipsism, it’s that.

  2. Dream diaries, writing reality checsk on my palm, the fact that my non lucid dreams are in black and white and tend to feature mostly airports and public toilets, and my damn orbitofrontal cortex can’t ever figure out I’m dreaming. I’d love to be a lucid dreamer, but I just can’t seem to get the knack.

    Funnily enough, my dreamscape got a lot more creative for about a week after watching Satoshi Kon’s Paprika… it’s like my subconscious mind got jealous of Kon’s imagery.

    If shodddy papers give us more good sci fi, I have no complaints.

  3. Awww..
    My favourite scifi author is anti gamergate.

    I wish you’d read some of our side’s material here:

    http://gitgud.net/gamergate/gamergateop/blob/master/README.md

    I assure you it is not what you were told.

    p.s. I really missed your popsci posts.

  4. Gamergate is Benghazi for neckbeards.

  5. Briefly, I’m thinking it might be hasty to correlate false remembrance with anything in this experimental setup, unless there was pre-screening for short-term memory faults. Actually STM faults might show interesting linkages of their own in related contexts… But where I was going with this is that in such a setup I would make a weak showing. My own STM fault is usually covered by thinking and communicating in written modes. Notes are good for most people, for me they are essential. There’s a window in my consciousness wherein things may fade from memory, only to resurface about 5 minutes later. From that point on, the memory is there and it’s even more firm the next day. Depending on the duration of the test, because I can’t take notes for the test, I might seem anything from scatter-brained to bonkers. I may in fact be bonkers but this might not be the test to sort it.

  6. Mr Non-Entity,

    Depending on the experimental procedure, they may have introduced distractor tasks to flush out working memory to avoid effects based on working memory versus recognition memory. I admit I have not read through all the paper yet, but I worked on experiments that tested recognition memory, looking for results in d-prime that would match the results predicted from the PIs model.

  7. I’ve missed these kinds of posts.

    Had a weird awake occurrence once in 2012. In the guard office at my old job, there’s an old intercom on the wall. There’s stripe of bright orange tape on it. For some reason, while not looking directly at it, I thought it was brown. Suddenly the orange seemed to appear out of nowhere still in the peripheral. I looked at it suspiciously, took a sip of coffee, and recalled just how poor our eyesight really is but how our brain makes us think otherwise.

    As for dreams and reality, I’ve most often been the victim of it happening to someone else, that is they have a dream in which I’ve frustrated them. They wake, knowing it was a dream but are still angry about what “I” did until they wake up properly and accept responsibility for their clearly faulty cerebellums.

    Then there was that one time I was certain that I had bought the Absolute Sandman Vol. I. That was weird.

    Also in the strange category, person who sleeps closest to me in the house having similar dreams…

  8. So going to steal this research for my current novel.

  9. […] I’m feeling too lazy to retype the rest. […]

  10. whoever,

    Maybe your brain was telling you that you should buy Absolute Sandman Vol. I.
    There are worse ways to spend your cash.

  11. .

  12. Gondium:
    Awww..
    My favourite scifi author is anti gamergate.

    I wish you’d read some of our side’s material here:

    http://gitgud.net/gamergate/gamergateop/blob/master/README.md

    I assure you it is not what you were told.

    p.s. I really missed your popsci posts.

    I can’t tell whether he is pro or anti from these remarks, Both sides claim the other is delusional.

    Thanks for posting about it. I’ve blithely dismissed the whole thing because I frankly don’t give a flying fuck about female game developers, game journalism or anything like that. But I looked up the ex-boyfriend’s posts which sparked the whole thing and it’s fucking hilarious.

    Like he says..

    yes, that means she was having sex with Josh Boggs right before he hired her. No, that doesn’t mean anyone’s going to risk their game’s success on an unqualified narrative designer for side benefits. Zoe is in fact a pretty solid narrative designer. And if there’s any significant fault to find in her narrative design, it’s that she never stops doing it.

    ..

    and in similar vein. I know that’s it’s not good form to derive enjoyment from reading about some other dude’s relationship clusterfuck, but in this case..heh.

    “Everyone. List them”

    “I think that’s everyone.”[[1]]

    . . . what? She thinks that’s everyone? How does that even? What? Was she just being skeezy so nonchalantly that she’ll just forget a few people here and there? Like, for whatever reason she just remembers those five guys?

    And I keep thinking back on this and I’m like “Five guys. Man. she cheated on me with five guys? Five guys.”

    Poor dude. And he had no idea.

  13. You can fly, in dreams. Converse with the dead. Oozing octopus suckers sprout across your face for no reason. You swallow it all, without reservation, without question. In terms of critical analysis, dreams are the Tea Party of cognitive states.

    What do I have to eat to get such dreams?
    Almost everything I’ve ever dreamt about was kinda-believeable, as in, could happen but improbable. Such as say, having a dream in which I rob a bank while in junior high during a gap time period, or a dream in which I’m playing a computer game which doesn’t exist but is really cool and so on, or a dream in which I buy a G36 complete with a grenade launcher, which I’m pretty sure would be a problem in the real world, as gun runners tend to favor more easterly armaments.

  14. My dreams are usually relatively tame and non-lucid (at least those I remember), so I vaguely suspect my “subconscious” (lol) is kinda like that of the MIB-guy from Psychonauts.

    The paper is terrible and barely readable, but I think that if it proves inspirational to you, that alone would redeem it.

    P.S.:
    Why is everyone bringing gamergate into everything?
    I mean, it’s been fun to discuss for a while, but at this point…

  15. 01,

    I’m hoping there are some better papers on the topic. Some us at the local hackerspace were chatting about lucid dreaming and the chat was a bit too woo for me, so I checked out of it and started digging around for actual research.

    It’s interesting qua interesting but also interesting because I go through phases where I have lucid or partially lucid dreams, and I go through phases where I have varying degrees of vu (deja, presque, jamais). Mostly deja vu, sometimes enough to feel agitated about it.

    I love cog psyc stuff, and hung out in a cognition and memory lab as an undergrad soaking it all up. So, human memory, animal behavior, etc. ended up adding a psyc degree to my cs degree. This is ages ago, so I remember reading about memory and attention from things in the 90s. nothing much current.

    I’m wishing for someone who is familiar with current research to come in here and recommend some more/better papers on the topic.

    Ps. my elevator dream — I was dreaming a dystopian world where some vague agency was controlling water and utilities and they really liked matte black color schemes too, for some reason. I was on a team to infiltrate the building to take over the system, and ended up in a really complicate elevator with a lot of buttons and stuff, except for some reason it could read your mind (you’d think they wouldn’t need hte buttons), so I had to not think about breaking in to be able to take the elevator up.

    my real world dreams sometimes involve everyday computer navigation and programming tasks. e.g. I’m stuck on this repeating theme of eye-gaze mental UI control of search engines or surfaces. The UI is so cool that it will break the dream because I’ll start wondering if it’s real or just the dream again.

    a few other times I’ve woken my partner up talking in my sleep. once I was really pissed off at someone asking me stupid questions rather than reading hte source code. “read the source code!”

    I remember reading articles about how parts of your brain are offline when dreaming–the parts that would be doing the thinking that people use when they do math or programming or what have you–and so when I recall dreams where I am doing stuff like that, I end wondering whether it actually happened in the dream or whether I am remembering episodic memories of something similar.

    Similarly, am I have lucid dreams, or remembering having lucid dreams? Occasionally I will have recursive lucid dreams. Occasionally I have lucid dreams where I am not completely rational, and will go up to characters in my dream trying to tell them that we are dreaming so that I can see if they wake up.

  16. Re: Gamergate, regardless of position, correct/incorrect, when a crowd can force a person to move and go into hiding over a free speech disagreement, something is very wrong. There’s way too much of this kind of behavior to make for a stable society. More recently, cop tried to get a protestor fired by calling her employer.

  17. @whoever

    While the victims have my sympathies, this behavior is well known among various trolls that populate darker recesses of online forums and multiplayer games (COD developers get death threats every single day, for instance)

    Unfortunately, the people in question seem to come from gentler, more academic backgrounds and don’t know troll management, and thus publicized their decision to change location (rule number one – never publicize any response to online threats, just report to authorities without any online acknowledgement).
    The trolls are now quite ecstatic that, after all these years, they have finally managed to find people whom they can genuinely terrify with mere words, over internet.

  18. Dreamed I had parasitic worms sliding beneath the skin of my fingers after petting some kitten sized triceratops last night. This apparently does not qualify as unusual enough to clue me that I’m dreaming. Sigh.

  19. whoever:
    Re: Gamergate, regardless of position, correct/incorrect, when a crowd can force a person to move and go into hiding over a free speech disagreement, something is very wrong. There’s way too much of this kind of behavior to make for a stable society. More recently, cop tried to get a protestor fired by calling her employer.

    I’d say firstly, people are pretty much pussies and irrational these days.
    This week I’ve read an interview of a Czech investigative journalist with a penchant for stings*, who deals with people like politicians, arms dealers, organized crime and so on.

    He said that someone who truly wants you dead would not send a threat. Death threats are just bullying, and the proper response to that is not give a fuck and involve the police to make an example of some of the less careful bullies if it’s legally possible.
    On the other hand, Ms. Quinn is precisely the kind of person who would try to make a mountain out of a molehill in order to advance her aims and should really have gone to study law.

    Secondly, yeah, it sucks that people get death threats and such over this. But that is what you get when every idiot can contribute his opinion. But hey, she’s a developer, no? So what’s preventing her from using an email whitelist or automatically removing death threats from her mailbox /blog comment queue without even reading them?

    There’s way too much of this kind of behavior to make for a stable society.

    Sign of the times. I guess. People have been fired these days over complete bullshit, like joking about dongles. Or been forced to resign because their views were deemed ‘incorrect’ even though they kept them private and were not vocal about them.

    Regarding stable society,,, this is just a symptom of a deeper malady,just like the excesses of Wall Street.

    There’s a theory that say guilt helped to build western civilization as it made people less likely to cheat, which eased cooperation and trade. It’s a better morality-enforcement mechanism than shame, which requires witnesses.

    So what we get now is a proliferation of myriad laws and regulations in order to replace what was lost when we killed God. However, red tape has it’s downsides, and temporal laws have loopholes and so on..

  20. Thanks for the post. Prediction that might follow from it: Parkinson’s patients should exhibit higher levels of lucid dreaming than norms if lucid dreaming scales with psychosis.

    Specifically, Kapur et al. (2005) argue that psychosis is a disorder of the salience network: i.e. an excess of dopamine prodiction causes arbitrary parts of the psychotic’s Umwelt to become perceptually and cognitively compelling. The psychotic’s reponse––and it’s the most human possible response––is to make sense of the chaos by integrating it into a narrative (from which follows the psychotic delusional structure). Parkinson’s enters the picture because a dysregulation in dopamine production (too little) causes motor tremors––and the treatment comes in the form of L-dopa, a dopamine substitute. For some patients, this should lead to an excess of dopamine, which in turn should lead to exaggerated salience (in fact, I expect that this is precisely what Corlett et al’s ‘familiar pictures’ are actually picking out). Thus, if psychoticism is caused by exagerrated salience and psychoticism does correlate with lucid dreaming, one would expect medicated Parkinson’s patients to have higher levels of lucid dreaming.

    Of course, one could just give norms L-dopa and see where that goes with respect to dreaming, but the ethics would be messy––easier by far to test the Parkinson’s people who are getting it anyway. Hmmm … have half a mind to try and find some funding for this …

  21. I once, over the course of… let’s say six months, maybe? Anyway, I had a series of unusual lucid dreams. This is not unusual… in those days, I had one, on average, once a month. Now it’s somewhat more sporadic.

    Anyway, normally in a lucid dream, I’ll fly, and attempt more drastic changes, and if I become lucid in the course of a normal weird dream, sometimes I’ll do specific things to alter it… conjure a weapon to shoot people who are fighting me, sometimes call down lightning.

    What characterized this particular stretch of lucid dreams was that there was sort of an ongoing plot where the people in my lucid dreams actually tried to stop me… like, not “stop what I was doing in the dream”, but “stop the fact that I’m influencing dreams at all, in a general case” and possibly even (I never quite did learn) keep me powrless in the dream world forever.

    See, it happened a few times where some weird event would happen in he dream, after I became lucid, and… it felt sort of like being electrocuted, and I’d lose all control for a little while and people would be trying to ‘get’ me, but I usually woke up.

    Eventually, I had a lucid dream and one of the dream characters explained to me… they had a whole civilization, where each individual member was a cell in my body who were only conscious while I was dreaming (whether lucid or not), although between dreams many years passed… they had reached a state where they had some kind of continuous civilization and figured out that I was like a godlike being who kept screwing up their reality, and my lucid dreaming was actually killing or controlling real people. There were different factions, some of whom wanted to destroy me, and some were developing technology (which I’d experienced) to neutralize my abilities, and others who wanted to reach an understanding with me. She was in the latter group. I agreed to try and limit my lucid dream control and let their society develop naturally, although a few lucid dreams later it seemed like their civlization had fallen and they’d forgotten all about me and no longer had the technology to stop my lucid control of dreams.

    Since then, to this day, although I’ll use my lucid dream powers to fly and alter the setting and other things, I’m really hesitant to kill or ‘mind control’ characters in my dream directly.

    I don’t really know what my point is, I just wanted to tell the story and this seemed like a good a time as any.

  22. Lodore: Specifically, Kapur et al. (2005) argue that psychosis is a disorder of the salience network: i.e. an excess of dopamine prodiction causes arbitrary parts of the psychotic’s Umwelt to become perceptually and cognitively compelling.

    Hey, thanks for that link. Have downloaded.

    01: Why is everyone bringing gamergate into everything?

    Yeah, my bad. It was just supposed to be a throwaway witticism. Shoulda known people would bite down on it.

    Further Gamergate commentary is hereby banned from this comment stream. (While I’m at it, that also goes for MR, SJ, or ACC denial.)

    Stories about dreams in which worms burrow though people’s flesh remain welcome. I have those myself sometimes.

  23. Peter Watts: Hey, thanks for that link. Have downloaded.

    dammit, I really miss all the access I had to everything when working for Columbia University. *shakes fist at academic publishing industry*.

    …I get recurring dreams with needles rather than worms.

  24. Lodore,

    If you want to be completely unscientific as well as mess around with your own brain you could try some of the things from brmlab, http://brmlab.cz/project/brain_hacking

    And, I’d also expect to see dream interactions with people taking other medications or going through other conditions. e.g. I’ve taken different types of meds over the years before settling on my current mix. Prozac triggered a delusional state. It was rather fascinating. I had no clue what was going in my head, and I had to keep telling myself that there wasn’t a huge data collecting conspiracy because that would take way too much effort and resources and by occams razor that meant I was crazy. This was back in 2000.

    Oh, and at the time I was working on crypto engines in secure radios, and this interacted particularly horribly with delusional states. Probably best I am not in that business anymore.

  25. argue that psychosis is a disorder of the salience network: i.e. an excess of dopamine prodiction causes arbitrary parts of the psychotic’s Umwelt to become perceptually and cognitively compelling.

    So what then causes psychotic episodes in hardcore stoners who have a reduced capacity for dopamine synthesis?

  26. Y.,

    Not clear on her specific details, but a} a layman/not an investigative journo/person without training, can’t be expected to deal with it the same and b} there are many ways to disrupt someone’s life beyond death threats. Those are typically the ones that make the news because they are the most direct and easy to get law enforcement’s attention.

    It’s the stuff like frequent flat tires, mysterious other car trouble, stolen identity, hacked accounts, poison pen with your boss, getting SWATed, mugged, etc. that can ruin your life. And I’ve seen a few worse than most of that performed by professionals and their young proteges.

  27. @ Sheila:

    If you want to be completely unscientific as well as mess around with your own brain you could try some of the things from brmlab, http://brmlab.cz/project/brain_hacking

    Thanks! I’ve been hacking my brain with, eh, reagents for many years now; any extra weapons in that arsenal are always welcome.

    @ Y:

    So what then causes psychotic episodes in hardcore stoners who have a reduced capacity for dopamine synthesis?

    Interesting question. My understanding is that stimulant psychosis fades extremely rapidly once the noxious substance is removed (and the noxious substance is, invariably, a dopamine agonist). On the other hand, I re-read A Scanner Darkly the other day, and If PKD is to be believed, half of his friends were left with permanent psychosis after the swinging sixties.

  28. Lodore:

    @ Y:

    Interesting question. My understanding is that stimulant psychosis fades extremely rapidly once the noxious substance is removed (and the noxious substance is, invariably, a dopamine agonist). On the other hand, I re-read A Scanner Darkly the other day, and If PKD is to be believed, half of his friends were left with permanent psychosis after the swinging sixties.

    I doubt they restricted themselves to stimulants..

    Yeah, you’re correct. Apparently that is the case. I’ve been kind of sleep-deprived most days this week. The people in the study had experienced psychotic episodes related to cannabis use, but were not psychotic anymore. They had reduced dopamine synthesis capacity, which is interesting, as AFAIK addicts usually have fewer dopamine receptors (~18% fewer). ( http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-04/foas-rdt042210.php)

    Also seen in food addicted rats.. (http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v13/n5/full/nn.2519.html)

  29. whoever: It’s the stuff like frequent flat tires, mysterious other car trouble, stolen identity, hacked accounts, poison pen with your boss, getting SWATed, mugged, etc. that can ruin your life. And I’ve seen a few worse than most of that performed by professionals and their young proteges.

    Here you’re talking about harrassment from a bunch of basement-dwelling geeks with no social skills. Swatting isn’t easy, and travelling to someone’s place of residence and physically messing
    with them is not easy either.

    Peter Watts: Hey, thanks for that link. Have downloaded.

    Further Gamergate commentary is hereby banned from this comment stream. (While I’m at it, that also goes forMR, SJ, or ACC denial.)

    Stories about dreams in which worms burrow though people’s flesh remain welcome.I have those myself sometimes.

    Are those dreams pleasant?

    So who else has mundane-ish dreams hereabout? Apparently they’re a feature of alexithymia, which is a fancy name for a set of symptoms including logical thinking, lack of imagination and difficulties with emotional processing.

    Typical deficiencies may include problems identifying, describing, and working with one’s own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others; difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal;[4] confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions; few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination; and concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems. Those who have alexithymia also report very logical and realistic dreams, such as going to the store or eating a meal.[17] Clinical experience suggests it is the structural features of dreams more than the ability to recall them that best characterizes alexithymia

    Doesn’t sound much like me, so I guess something else is the case.

  30. On the other hand…

    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-marijuana-death-patients-traumatic-brain.html

    Pot may increase survival of traumatic brain injuries. Assuming the researchers weren’t just smoking something.

  31. @Peter Watts

    “Further Gamergate commentary is hereby banned from this comment stream. (While I’m at it, that also goes for MR, SJ, or ACC denial.)

    Stories about dreams in which worms burrow though people’s flesh remain welcome. I have those myself sometimes.”

    I’m not sure what those things are (I suspect the last is the anthropogenic climate change, but might be wrong), so just to be safe I will refrain from denying or confirming anything, kinda like the NSA 😉

    Well, and as to parasitic dreams, oddly enough, I don’t recall having those. I did have a dream about having a “second personality” “running on my brain” (interestingly, it was only supposed to “activate” when “me proper” was asleep, so it was one of those weird dreams where you go asleep and awaken multiple times – all within the dream. We communicated via written notes), don’t know if that’s supposed to count as parasite.

    The most vivid and most fantastic one I recall was when I was a military UAV (I somehow knew that I’m an UAV and not, say, a pilot of a fighter jet).
    It was a surprisingly happy dream. I knew exactly what I have to do, an amazing feeling of control and… clarity of purpose.
    Absolute clarity of purpose.
    Not a second of doubt, even when I decided to allow my comms to get damaged so as to avoid receiving a direct order from command (I knew I could “reason myself” out of RTB if the comms go completely dark, and also somehow knew that if I finish receiving the order, I will not be able to disobey and will have to return, which ran contrary to my purpose as perceived within the dream). It was kind of weird (especially when after comms went dark – I started “remembering” things I didn’t at the beginning of the dream, every recollection somehow unlocking a deeper understanding of my own mechanics and my goal) but incredibly, intoxicatingly fun.

  32. Stories about dreams in which worms burrow though people’s flesh remain welcome. I have those myself sometimes.

    Well, dream parasites are far less dangerous than memetic ones…

  33. So who else has mundane-ish dreams hereabout? Apparently they’re a feature of alexithymia, which is a fancy name for a set of symptoms including logical thinking, lack of imagination and difficulties with emotional processing.

    A large percentage of my dreams are fairly ordinary. Missing airplanes, back in college sitting exams I’m woefully unprepared for, that sort of thing, but sometimes my subconscious gets creative, and I get stuff like the exorcist elephant, who cures posessed babies by smushing them with his foot.

  34. Y: So who else has mundane-ish dreams hereabout?

    I recall an episode of the long ago SF/F/Comic interview show Prisoners of Gravity that focused on dreams, and Michael Moorcock mentioned that pretty much all of his dreams were startlingly mundane, like popping down to the cheese shop.

    I have some of those, mixed with some weird ones.

    Last night I had a dream that somebody had been cloning or genetically engineering an alien organism that looked like a tree of flesh, but with eyes, but there was a problem with the eyes and that at Earth pressure they exploded and, unlike normal eyes they were filled with blood. Scientists were discussing the issue of what to replace the membrane with so it wouldn’t explode (actually, this was a first or second attempt at that, but it failed and they went all explodey and everyone got covered with blood)

    I don’t know what that was about.

  35. whoever:
    On the other hand…

    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-marijuana-death-patients-traumatic-brain.html

    Pot may increase survival of traumatic brain injuries. Assuming the researchers weren’t just smoking something.

    The article makes no mention of controlling for age. Therefore the discrepancy in survival rates could be tied to the ages of those injured. I doubt that pot use is as common in 60-80 year old people as in younger ones.

  36. Nestor: Well, dream parasites are far less dangerous than memetic ones…

    Yeah. Just look at the 20th century. That apocalyptic cult out of Trier produced such a set of memetic parasites that we’re still ‘enjoying’ the results. The vector of spread were mostly soft-minded and tender-hearted intellectuals.

    And then CIA got into the game..they were not content with ruining art through covertly supporting abstract expressionism..

    “All these principles of equality you’ve been talking about since the French Revolution are very nice, but you don’t seem to be taking them very seriously. You’re all hypocrites, actually. So we’re going to make you take those principles seriously.” And they held demonstrations and bus rides, and occupied buildings, and it was very embarrassing for the people in power, because the other people had such a good argument, and anyone who listened seriously had to agree with them.

    ‘Feminism was working, and the civil rights movement was working, and all the other social justice movements were getting more and more support. So, in the nineteen eighties, the CIA—’ she turned to Keith and explained cheerfully, ‘this is where X-Files Theory comes into it–hired some really clever linguists to invent a secret weapon: an incredibly complicated way of talking about politics that didn’t actually make any sense, but which spread through all the universities in the world, because it sounded so impressive. And at first, the people who talked like this just hitched their wagon to the social justice movements, and everyone else let them come along for the ride, because they seemed harmless. But then they climbed on board the peace train and threw out the driver.

    ‘So instead of going to the people in power and saying, “How about upholding the universal principles you claim to believe in?” the people in the social justice movements ended up saying things like “My truth narrative is in competition with your truth narrative!” And the people in power replied, “Woe is me! You’ve thrown me in the briar patch!” And everyone else said, “Who are these idiots? Why should we trust them, when they can’t even speak properly?” And the CIA were happy. And the people in power were happy. And the secret weapon lived on in the universities for years and years, because everyone who’d played a part in the conspiracy was too embarrassed to admit what they’d done.

  37. Peter Watts:Yeah, my bad. It was just supposed to be a throwaway witticism. Shoulda known people would bite down on it.

    I got to that part of the blog post and I thought, “Gee, I wonder what half the comments will be about?”

    OT, I could have sworn Corlett had been mentioned before on this blog, but I can’t find it in the search. Is that “consistent with” whatever Corlett claims lucid dreamers have?

  38. Lodore,

    PKD was not kidding. In one of his books, “Valis”, I think, he explains that the problem is less of being insane from the toxicity, and more from the habits of thought acquired during the toxic psychosis. I would tend to agree; I saw in the 1980s/1990s a lot of what he saw in the previous generation. BTW one of the least researched (so far as I know) major contributors to general nuttiness is long-term synergy of amphetamines and marijuana. Now that will induce paranoia as a way of life.

  39. Y.,

    Think one of the other articles on that does. 50s and 60s if memory serves.

  40. Y.: I doubt that pot use is as common in 60-80 year old people as in younger ones.

    You’d be surprised. Look up the numbers on recreational substance abuse and sex in nursing homes. Sheer numbers of teenagers might be bigger, but VD and the drug trade is a problem at old age and assisted living facilities. Basically, at a certain point people say “fuck it, I’m not long for this world anyways, I always wondered what it was like to have a threesome on heroin”

    As Charles Stross put it, people would rather be shot by a jealous husband than by a nurse sick of changing bedpans

  41. Since sleep walking was discussed some time ago, it begs the question is the censor thingy always active when you are “mobile”? Or why isn’t people doing crazier shit when sleepwalking? (e.g. “flying” out of windows, down stairs and what not or just plain running around from nightmares.)

    Does it imply sleepwalking is a higher state of waking than lucid dreaming, or is it just different parts of the brain that’s active?

  42. I’ve always been fascinated by transitional states, probably because I have so very much trouble going to sleep.

    I’ve never had sleep paralysis and rarely remember my dreams, but last week, in a tormented night featuring more than one dream involving dissection (of me, by other people), I had a dream in which the dream plotline continued into wakefulness for a few minutes. From the dream’s perspective, it’s as if the lights went out. Instantly. (Of course they did: my visual input was coming from my real eyes, which were closed.) I tried to turn on the light, but nothing happened — I was still sleep-paralyzed, so nothing had actually moved. Opened the front door and the outside world was *gone*. ARGH oh hang on I can just open my eyes, can’t I? Phew!

  43. @Nix: I occasionally take mid-day naps, and when I did I would often have an experience where I was dreaming, and semi-lucid dreaming at that… but instead of going black, my sight was filled with the pattern on the fitted sheet on my mattress. My eyes must have opened while I was still asleep. I guess it always had happened, but when I had a solid-colored sheet, the view was bland enough that my mind could overlay the dream stuff on top, and I just had the feeling of fogginess. I couldn’t move the view (or indeed move at all),but I was still in the dream, the desperate urgency towards goals that make no sense, sometimes hearing things. Sometimes I could manage to get myself to close my eyes again and resume a more normal dream, though it was usually short-lived.

  44. Remember that odd person who had such venom for you and Bakker?
    Well:
    http://azarias.livejournal.com/385833.html

    http://failfandomanonwiki.pbworks.com/w/page/46349159/Winterfox

    “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” – Voltaire

  45. Puzzled in Peoria,

    Wow. Wish I had more time to delve into that right now.

  46. @Puzzled in Peoria
    So, the cracked entity has harassed a rape survivor for disagreeing with cracked’s position on rape survival experience and said that a woman “should be raped by dogs” for the crime of disagreeing with her cow-pewtor game choice ?

    This is definitely a … superior… reader

    Someone must find her foto and make a Doge meme. It just writes itself!

    wow such feminist so rape threats much justice so progressive

  47. […] rifters.com/crawl/?p=5276#comment-42833 […]

  48. One I have to share…

    http://mccoyote.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/bbd-yet-another-border-crossing-that-wasnt/

  49. @ Quell
    Since sleep walking was discussed some time ago, it begs the question is the censor thingy always active when you are “mobile”? Or why isn’t people doing crazier shit when sleepwalking? (e.g. “flying” out of windows, down stairs and what not or just plain running around from nightmares.)

    My perspective on your question is that since your lizard brain is running the show, When sleepwalking you are less likely to do stupid things like jump out of a window, Because the lizard knows better than to jump off a cliff unless a T-rex is REALLY JUST ABOUT TO EAT YOU!!! :-)

  50. Real World “Tony Stark”/headcheese investor: AI may be humanity’s biggest existential threat:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/27/elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-ai-biggest-existential-threat

  51. @Da’Schmeef

    That seems like a possibility, but wouldn’t that imply that the lizard brain has it’s own “sanity check” censor? If you are dreaming a T-rex while sleepwalking for example, do you jump? Or does the visions from the dream (with the accompanied imperative to jump/run/etc) never reach the part of the brain that’s controlling the body while sleep walking?

  52. 01: So, the cracked entity has harassed a rape survivor for disagreeing with cracked’s position on rape survival experience and said that a woman “should be raped by dogs” for the crime of disagreeing with her cow-pewtor game choice ?

    I finally got around to remarking on this in the comments thread for Oct 23.

  53. Nestor,

    Finally had a sustained lucid dream last night. There was a screaming doll head in the bathroom which scared me because I thought all this messing about trying to achieve lucid dreaming was making me hallucinate in waking life.

    Then the penny dropped… this was not waking life. I became lucid, and stayed lucid for quite a long time, enjoying the sights. Looking forward to doing this regularly. The graphics inside my head are (At least for now) better than xbox :)