Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Waking and dreaming consciousness: Neurobiological and functional considerations

  • J.A. Hobsona
  • K.J. Fristonb,
  • a Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA
  • b The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom


This paper presents a theoretical review of rapid eye movement sleep with a special focus on pontine-geniculate-occipital waves and what they might tell us about the functional anatomy of sleep and consciousness. In particular, we review established ideas about the nature and purpose of sleep in terms of protoconsciousness and free energy minimization. By combining these theoretical perspectives, we discover answers to some fundamental questions about sleep: for example, why is homeothermy suspended during sleep? Why is sleep necessary? Why are we not surprised by our dreams? What is the role of synaptic regression in sleep? The imperatives for sleep that emerge also allow us to speculate about the functional role of PGO waves and make some empirical predictions that can, in principle, be tested using recent advances in the modeling of electrophysiological data.