KentuckyFC writes: Despite the universal experience of dreaming, psychologists and neuroscientists have little understanding of its purpose and mechanisms or how it varies from one culture to another. So new approaches to oneirology, or dream research, are always welcome. Now a DARPA-funded research team is using network science to analyse dreams for the first time. Dreams have become amenable to network studies because dream reports and their interpretations are now widely available on the web in repositories such as UC Santa Cruz's Dreambank. The DARPA team crawled these databases in English, Chinese and Arabic for symbols that appear in dreams and their descriptions. They then created a network for each language by treating symbols as nodes and linking them to other nodes with similar descriptions. They then searched the networks for regions of more densely connected nodes that form communities. For example, in English, symbols such as 'ladder', 'hill' and 'goal" form just such a community representing 'achievement after a struggle'. Finally, they compared the communities from different languages looking for similarities. The results show that dream symbols seem to be connected in similar ways regardless of the cultural background of the dreamers. That provides a new window into the cultural links between dreams experienced by people in different parts of the world. But it also raises the question of how the work fits in to DARPA’s broader mission to create breakthrough technologies for national security.
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