Can Fireworks Enhance Your Dreams?

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By Antonio Prata 

www.huffingtonpost.comWith 4th of July not too far in the rearview, fireworks are probably still fresh in the hearts and minds of many. Loud, colorful, explosive. These are among the adjectives we most closely associate with fireworks. But do fireworks also have the power to induce, as well as enhance, dreams?

Kansas State University (KSU) psychology professor Richard Harris speaks on our fascination with fireworks: “People who remember enjoying setting off fireworks themselves as children,” Harris says, “will want to do that as adults or at least help their kids do it, and as such, perpetuate these memories.”

www.jakesfireworks.comDr. Harris’s words suggest an interesting relationship between powerful, external stimuli like fireworks and some of our more deep-seated memories, such as childhood occurrences; especially if you consider dreams to be as a form of memory processing. In other words, it is possible that experiencing fireworks as an adult can open up parts of your mind that you don’t regularly engage with by triggering certain sensations that might feel familiar to you. In fact, fireworks have been known to trigger post-traumatic episodes in some veterans of war who suffer with the disorder.

But perhaps the most potent allure of fireworks lies in their dangerous, explosive nature. “Engaging in risky behaviors is very reinforcing for people,” Cain, assistant professor of psychology at KSU, said. “For some, it can cause release of a chemical in the brain that helps people feel good. The chemical is a neurotransmitter called dopamine and it is released when we engage in behaviors we enjoy, such as eating, drinking, sex, etc. Some people release dopamine when they engage in risky behaviors.”

These last observations are of particular interest, because your dreams are dopamine driven; which means that the same chemical reaction caused in the brain by experiencing fireworks, for some, is responsible for creating our dreams. Studies in the past have shown the correlation between levels of dopamine in the brain and the intensity of dreams to be consistent, with higher levels of dopamine correlating to more emotionally enriched states of dream.

So, for this theory to make sense–namely, the idea that experiencing fireworks can stimulate the production, as well as subsequent release of, dopamine in the brain–substances like THC, the principal psychoactive substance in marijuana, that interact with the brain’s pleasure centers should also enhance one’s ability to dreams, right?dopamine

Well, regular marijuana use actually has the opposite effect on dreams. When your brain gets help producing dopamine from something you put into it, its ability to produce it on its own becomes weaker, as your body feels it doesn’t need to produce as much of its own.

With fireworks, however, the stimulus that causes your brain to release these chemicals operates from a safe distance. You are not adding anymore ingredients to the beaker, so to speak. This can be considered a healthier release of dopamine, since your brain is mostly acting on its own, and may be why viewing fireworks during the day can turn your resting mind into an IMAX theater when the lights go off.

But I’m no scientist, and I’d be lying to you if I said I could actually explain this stuff rationally. The only thing I really have to offer is my belief and common sense, and I can’t make you believe that it’s true. All I know is that, the night of 4th of July, I had a very bizarre sequence of creative visions while I was asleep, visions that I can’t even put into words because of how primal they felt to me–and something in me tells me it was the fireworks. That’s my conclusion. And it’s good enough for me. I hope that it’s good enough for you, too.

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