Developmental considerations

Brain development proceeds, up to a point, under genetic guidance. Chemical flavors are designated and neuronal addresses are specified by the genome. When cholinergic and aminergic neurons meet in the pontine brainstem they interact automatically and spontaneously. When the cholinergic system is dominant as it is in REM, the brain is activated in one specific mode and when the aminergic system is dominant as in waking, it is activated in another specific mode. According to this theory, the aminer-gic system must develop later than the cholinergic system since waking consciousness follows dream consciousness by weeks or even months.

Although antecedence does not guarantee causality, this temporal sequence means that REM sleep could be a protoconscious state. What is meant by the term protoconsciousness? First, it means that a primitive sense of self could be instantiated. To paraphrase Descartes, my brain is activated, therefore I am. When my self (or ego) is activated, I move. My self is therefore an agent. This is point two. According to Rodolfo Llinas, agent-initiated movement is instantiated early in development [31]. Not only does the self-organized autoactive brain instantiate agent-initiated movement but it simulates both the sensory and emotional concomitants of that activity. These are points 3 and 4. REM sleep creates a self that acts, and feels, in a virtual world.

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