Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Episode 30: The Neuroscience of Sleep

Sleep is such a ubiquitous part of our lives we may forget just how weird of a thing it is to spend a third of our days laying in darkness. In this episode on the science of sleep, we start by describing types of sleep (while appreciating its strangeness) and the negative cognitive effects of missing out on it. We also discuss the potential role of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in training neural connections and how that idea has been ported to artificial intelligence. We then take a rare (for us) trip to the brain stem to understand the neural mechanisms of switching from wake to sleep and nonREM to REM sleep. While there we appreciate how difficult it is to tease apart the function of different neuron types in a heavily redundant system. Finally, we dip our toes into the world of dreams, discussing a theory of dreaming's role in developing consciousness and our own experiences with lucid dreaming. Throughout, we go down tangents to argue about the value of speculative science and how to quantify knowledge via Google search results.

We read:
Sleep State Switching
REM sleep and dreaming: Towards a theory of proto-consciousness 

And mentioned:
Bence's motor learning work
Episode 23: What Can Neuroscience Say About Consciousness? 
and possibly relevant: Episode 5: Neural Oscillations

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 


  1. Josh would disapprove the tomfoolery, but since the "hard problem" keeps coming up, why not do a special episode and just go straight at it. For example, Chalmers ms Meta-Problem of Consciousness https://philpapers.org/rec/CHATMO-32 (heard about it from Hacker News https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16360199)

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