CLOSE

Airing TONIGHT on PBS - NOVA: What Are Dreams?

NOVA: What Are Dreams? airs on PBS stations in the US tonight, Tuesday, November 24. This is a terrific documentary on dreams, packed with specifics on the science of sleep. If you've ever wondered about sleepwalking, why we dream, or why sleep is necessary, this is the documentary for you! Note: after the air date, the entire program will be available for streaming for one full week on the Nova: What Are Dreams website.

I'm a big fan of NOVA, the science program aired on PBS stations in the US. I recently got an advance look at tonight's program, What Are Dreams?, and I think it's awesome. It's very reminiscent of a Radiolab episode on dreams from 2007 (you may remember it as the "dreaming about Tetris" episode), as the NOVA team interviews many of the same scientists, though they are further along in their research at this point. The difference is that this is NOVA, so you get to see scientists in the lab, as well as bizarre video of people sleepwalking, video of rats running mazes, and so on. This adds a new dimension that the Radiolab program lacked (although the Radiolab episode is very much worth listening to -- it's a classic.)

Discussed in this NOVA program: REM sleep and "NREM" sleep; how people waking up from different stages of sleep feel about themselves (hint: waking up from REM makes you feel like you're a pretty crappy person!); how REM/NREM sleep ratios may affect depression (!); REM Sleep Disorder -- a frightening brain disorder in which your body is not paralyzed during dreams, so you act them out; the (surprisingly brief/recent) history of sleep research; how sleep studies work (electrodes all over your head!); dreaming about videogames; how "sleeping on a problem" actually improves performance the next day; and how rats dream about running through mazes.

Here's a trailer:

Remember, it airs TONIGHT, Tuesday, November 24, on PBS stations in the US. Check your local listings for the time, though is most markets it's at 8pm.

See also: 5 Full Episodes of NOVA, Inside Oliver Sacks's Brain (As He Listens to Music), My Sleep Apnea: The Sleep Study, and Sleepwalk With Me.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
iStock
iStock

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios