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Why Our Brain Craves Random Noise

Credit: RyanJLane/iStockphoto

Credit: RyanJLane/iStockphoto

By John L. Bradshaw

Sensory deprivation, dreams, hallucinations and the detection of familiar patterns in clouds and repetitive sounds reveal our brain’s determination to make meaning from random noise.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In the 1960s, space was all the rage. We could fly folk to the Moon, but could we send spaceships further afield to film the planets? How would spacemen cope with a weightless state, and possibly very lengthy periods with greatly attenuated sensory input?

To address such issues, student volunteers were employed to spend lengthy periods in total sensory isolation, seemingly in blissfully relaxed comfort, and were paid to do absolutely nothing! They lay upon the softest substrates imaginable and achievable, in complete darkness and silence, insulated from any possible or conceivable sounds or tactile stimulation except those originating from within their own bodies – cardiac, respiratory, bowel, etc.

But they hated it! In a surprisingly short time, many started to experience vivid visual hallucinations, often of a weird nature, such as lines of little green figures advancing across their putative field of view. One participant even required hospitalisation from his experiences, and several demanded immediate release.

Parallels were to be drawn from the effects of psychedelic drugs, which were being tried, experimentally and for “recreational” purposes, in those halcyon and innocent days of the “Swinging 60s”. Dreaming (expecially nightmares) may be an everyday parallel of the effects of reduced sensory input and the apparent need to maintain...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.