Dreams and Their Evolutionary Advantage of Simulated Learning
Several scientists have tried to understand the purpose of dreams and why evolution has selected this physiological phenomenon.
We know that the human brain is one of the most energy intense organs of the body. Therefore, maintaining such high activity level in the visual system must come at a significant cost for the body. So why would evolution select dreams?
This means that there has to be some significant evolutionary advantage for the phenomenon.
Some of the recent sleep research conducted is arriving at the hypothesis that dreams play a significant role in memory consolidation. This relationship is not fully understood yet, but it could be one plausible use case.
Given the complexity and energy-intensity of the phenomenon, dreams are likely to have several additional functions.
Two possible and meaningful use cases for dreams could be simulated learning and preparation for future experiences.
Sigmund Freud in his earliest pondering about dreams had postulated, that dreams are a way for the brain to enact daily thoughts, that have been suppressed due to social conditioning and norms.
This is unlikely to be a dominant mode considering that animals also dream and that this evolutionary selection has occurred prior to the development of strong, social norms.
Yet there could be value for the brain to re-enacting daily experiences to learn from mistakes it has made.
There could be even more value enacting experiences that the brain is anticipating in the future to prepare possible modes of behavior.
….. still in progress