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This is a stunning thread. It points to several possibilities really fascinating to me.
First, I think it says something interesting about the Hypnic Jerk (aka Myoclonic Jerk and Hypnagogic Jerk) which is discussed in an excellent previous thread. As noted there, imagery is associated more often than not with these events, which occur just as people fall asleep, and lobstah’s experience, and some of the answerers’ here, both of which I think we can reasonably equate to the imagery part of the Hypnic Jerk, suggest that previous dreams could be the source of this often surprisingly complex and involved material, which is very like a dream but occurs outside of REM sleep.
It also gives strong support to the idea that dreams and the content of dreams are an important part of cognition, rather than a trivial epiphenomenon; otherwise, why would a mechanism exist which seems so clearly aimed at resolving the action or conflict of a previous specific dream– a mechanism which involves the extra step of transferring dream content to a distinct state of the brain?
If we consider stauf’s introduction of the problem of deja vu, things could get really interesting. A paper just published in Nature, vol 443, p 287, discussed herehere and here and nicely explored in a recent Metafilter thread, demonstrates that stimulating part of the temporoparietal lobe of the left side of the brain can produce a feeling of being followed and even a feeling of being embraced by a shadowy person. According to the study, the actions of the shadow person mimic the actions of the subject, which implies that this region of the brain can make one’s own doubled actions seem to come from outside as the actions of another person. The paper also suggests this region of the brain as the source of the schizophrenic’s feeling of being followed and watched.
In the thread stauf links to, zardoz, the OP, asks about certain days during which he has the experience of deja vu "dozens of times," and goes on to say "actually it’s not quite deja vu, it’s more linked to my dreams last night… it’s hard to explain…"In answer, nanojath mentions that repeated deja vu’s can be an "early warning sign of schizophrenia" and cites an article which mentions this in passing. Other answerers report similar experiences to zardoz’s, with a particular emphasis on being especially tired during the times they (the repeated deja vu’s) tend to occur.
So, perhaps the part of the brain stimulated in the Nature study normally becomes active just as we fall asleep and can help to open a pipeline for material from unresolved dreams. When it becomes active when we are awake, perhaps it can produce feelings of deja vu, which may or may not seem to the person experiencing them as being associated with a previous dream. For me, it’s hard not to conclude that this is the root of the deja vu phenomenon. As I reread the Metafilter thread, I notice that blackleotardfront characterizes the brain stimulation events as "proprioceptive ‘deja vu.’"
The demonstrated connection with paranoia and a sense of being watched, which argues for its activation in schizophrenia, taken together with the connection to the onset of sleep indicated in this thread, could also then explain the fact that sleep deprived individuals almost always ultimately develop some degree of paranoia, a sense of being watched and a sense of alienation from themselves, as well as the development of paranoia and the ‘gang illusion’ in the course of ampthetamine intoxication.
If we posit activation of the brain region in question during dreams, which is at least an intriguing possibilty based on lobstah’s and others’ accounts, we could explain, very speculatively, how your own impulses and sensations can seem to come to you as those of the characters in your dreams, instead.
And finally (please pardon me for the length of this answer), I can’t help thinking all this, properly construed, is the key to narcolepsy.
Go to Ask Metafilter
IANAS (I am not a scientist)
However, I do think I can answer this one.
Generally, the consensus is that quantum behavior occurs only at the quantum level. This means that anything larger than atomic particles, atoms themselves, or some molecules cannot exhibit quantum-level behavior.
In that sense, in the Schroedinger cat experiment, the cat is a perfectly adequate observer of a quantum state, and while we may scratch our heads and ponder on the half-deadness of a cat, the cat itself has no such illusions on that point.
On the other hand, the idea that the observer affects the observed is still a valid claim to some extent. The idea is basically this: if in the observation you send a signal to the observed that they are being observed, they will behave differently. On the quantum level, particles are sufficiently tiny that doing something like shooting a photon at them is going to have a measurable effect. However, simply looking at a tiger (assuming it cannot see you) is not going to change its behavior because you do not need to shoot photons (or anything else for that matter) in order to passively observe it. However, if you went up and poked it I guarantee you its behavior would be affected by this form of observation. On a social level, if you have a researcher sit in on a classroom to observe unruly behavior, they may be disappointed as the class might behave better since they know they are being observed.
And on the social level, I think that there can be effects by "changing your consciousness" but they have nothing to do with quantum physics. If you are more cheerful, this can rub off on people. When you smile, they may feel better and act more positively towards you than if you were frowning.
The fact that these effects occur, and that there are sort of similar things going on in quantum physics, does not mean that there is any relationship between the two.