Why do our eyes move when we dream?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

When I first came across the question of why our eyes move when we dream, I was intrigued. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve experienced countless times myself, but never really thought about the reason behind it. So, I decided to dig deeper and see what I could find.

After some research, I stumbled upon a study conducted by researchers at UCLA, which shed some light on this mystery. They discovered that rapid eye movements in dreams actually represent the moment the brain encounters a new image. This finding fascinated me because it hinted at a similarity between the brain activity during dreams and when we encounter visual images while awake.

Itzhak Fried, one of the co-authors of the research, explained that the rapid eye movements in dreams are akin to the brain’s response when we see something new in our waking state. It’s like our brain is creating a visual experience even in the dream state, and our eyes are following along, capturing and processing these images.

This revelation made me think about my own dreams and the vivid imagery I often encounter. It made sense that my eyes would move rapidly during those moments when my brain is processing new visual information. It’s almost like my dream world is as real to my brain as the waking world, and my eyes are simply responding to the stimulation.

What’s also interesting is that this finding aligns with the idea that dreams are a product of our brain’s attempt to make sense of our experiences and memories. When we dream, our brain is essentially creating a virtual reality, complete with visual images that our eyes track. It’s like our brain is trying to recreate the world around us, even if it’s in a fantastical or surreal way.

In terms of the scientific explanation, the researchers believe that rapid eye movements during dreams are controlled by a specific region of the brain called the superior colliculus. This area is responsible for integrating visual information and directing eye movements. So, when our brain encounters a new image in a dream, it triggers the superior colliculus to move our eyes accordingly.

To summarize, the reason why our eyes move when we dream is because our brain is actively creating visual images in our dream state. The rapid eye movements represent the brain’s response to encountering new images, similar to how our eyes move when we see something new in our waking state. It’s a fascinating insight into the inner workings of our dreams and how our brain processes visual information, even when we’re asleep.