I’m currently on a little jaunt to visit friends and family in the days surrounding the wedding of my college roommate. Yesterday I drove from New York to Chicago — a 13 hour drive, once you account for the rain, the construction, and the Chicago rush hour traffic. The drive was fairly gruelling, but what I find amusing, however, is that while dreaming yesterday night and into this morning (probably mostly the latter, since those are the dreams we’re most likely to remember), I dreamed about — guess what… — driving from New York to Chicago. The reason I find this amusing is that it seems ridiculously similar to the wonderful 2009 paper in Neuron by Davidson, Kloosterman, and Wilson, called “Hippocampal Replay of Extended Experience.” That study (which, if you haven’t read, you should) had D,K,&W placing electrodes into patches of place cells in the hippocampi of lab rats. These rats were then run through a maze while their location was tracked with a video camera such that that image could be coordinated with the activation recoded from the electrodes. The finding from that paper — during periods of extended rest the rat hippocampus would replay a quickened and condensed version of the path the rat had just taken in the maze. Fascinating. But more fascinating, and more relevant to current discussion, during periods of slow-wave sleep the rats also demonstrated the same patterns of activity, seemingly indicating that after they’ve been run through a maze, rats will dream of a sped-up replay of where they’ve been.
Thus, it should be pretty clear why I was amused to find myself doing the same thing. And the best part — when driving in my dream, I was going really, really fast.