Inception is the latest popular film in which a central theme is the questioning of reality. Similar to the Matrix, dreams are used as a window into this questioning.
“Inception” is defined in the film as the act of planting an idea into someone’s subconscious mind, which can be accomplished by entering their dream. Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), the main character in the film, is put on a mission to perform inception on an enemy. As an experienced thief who is able to enter the dreams of others, Cobb attempts to attain his goal using a complex scheme to avoid being caught by the enemy. Part of his strategy involves working with associates who design dreams, dreams within dreams, and dreams within dreams within dreams. At each layer, reality is brought into question.
Such questions are brought up: is the deepest level of dreaming actually reality? Is the first level that is not perceived as a dream actually a dream?
Characters in Inception struggle with these sorts of issues throughout the film. These sorts of issues are also reasons to be interested in and study neuroscience.
Although the concept of inception may be thought of in the film as a strategy for attack, perhaps there is another conception hidden beneath this layer of understanding, a conception that requires introspection at its core level. Inception, or the planting of an idea into the mind, could represent our basic notion of what is real. Perhaps we are born with the idea planted in our minds that reality is the world we are experiencing. Perhaps our brains develop in such a manner that we have a natural inclination to assume our senses do not deceive us.
When we start to question this form of inception, this trap of certainty, we are going against our instincts. We are no longer blindly accepting what we perceive.
Therein lies the beauty of neuroscience.