The Functional Role of Dreaming in Emotional Processes.
ABSTRACT: Dream experience (DE) represents a fascinating condition linked to emotional processes and the human inner world. Although the overlap between REM sleep and dreaming has been overcome, several studies point out that emotional and perceptually vivid contents are more frequent when reported upon awakenings from this sleep stage. Actually, it is well-known that REM sleep plays a pivotal role in the processing of salient and emotional waking-life experiences, strongly contributing to the emotional memory consolidation. In this vein, we highlighted that, to some extent, neuroimaging studies showed that the processes that regulate dreaming and emotional salience in sleep mentation share similar neural substrates of those controlling emotions during wakefulness. Furthermore, the research on EEG correlates of the presence/absence of DE and the results on EEG pattern related to the incorporated memories converged to assign a crucial role of REM theta oscillations in emotional re-processing. In particular, the theta activity is involved in memory processes during REM sleep as well as during the waking state, in line with the continuity hypothesis. Also, the gamma activity seems to be related to emotional processes and dream recall as well as to lucid dreams. Interestingly, similar EEG correlates of DE have been found in clinical samples when nightmares or dreams occur. Research on clinical samples revealed that promoting the rehearsal of frightening contents aimed to change them is a promising method to treat nightmares, and that lucid dreams are associated with an attenuation of nightmares. In this view, DE can defuse emotional traumatic memories when the emotional regulation and the fear extinction mechanisms are compromised by traumatic and frightening events. Finally, dreams could represent a sort of simulation of reality, providing the possibility to create a new scenario with emotional mastery elements to cope with dysphoric items included in nightmares. In addition, it could be hypothesized that the insertion of bizarre items besides traumatic memories might be functional to "impoverish" the negative charge of the experiences.
Project description:Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and its main oscillatory feature, frontal theta, have been related to the processing of recent emotional memories. As memories constitute much of the source material for our dreams, we explored the link between REM frontal theta and the memory sources of dreaming, so as to elucidate the brain activities behind the formation of dream content. Twenty participants were woken for dream reports in REM and slow wave sleep (SWS) while monitored using electroencephalography. Eighteen participants reported at least one REM dream and 14 at least one SWS dream, and they, and independent judges, subsequently compared their dream reports with log records of their previous daily experiences. The number of references to recent waking-life experiences in REM dreams was positively correlated with frontal theta activity in the REM sleep period. No such correlation was observed for older memories, nor for SWS dreams. The emotional intensity of recent waking-life experiences incorporated into dreams was higher than the emotional intensity of experiences that were not incorporated. These results suggest that the formation of wakefulness-related dream content is associated with REM theta activity, and accords with theories that dreaming reflects emotional memory processing taking place in REM sleep.
Project description:Focusing on lucid dreaming, this paper examined relationships between dissociated experiences related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (lucid dreaming, nightmares, and sleep paralysis), reality testing, and paranormal experiences/beliefs. The study comprised a UK-based online sample of 455 respondents (110 males, 345 females, Mean age = 34.46 years, SD = 15.70), who had all previously experienced lucid dreaming. Respondents completed established self-report measures assessing control within lucid dreaming, experience and frequency of nightmares, incidence of sleep paralysis, proneness to reality testing deficits (Inventory of Personality Organization subscale, IPO-RT), subjective experience of receptive psi and life after death (paranormal experience), and paranormal belief. Analysis comprised tests of correlational and predictive relationships between sleep-related outcomes, IPO-RT scores, and paranormal measures. Significant positive correlations between sleep and paranormal measures were weak. Paranormal measures related differentially to sleep indices. Paranormal experience correlated with lucid dreaming, nightmares, and sleep paralysis, whereas paranormal belief related only to nightmares and sleep paralysis. IPO-RT correlated positively with all paranormal and sleep-related measures. Within the IPO-RT, the Auditory and Visual Hallucinations sub-factor demonstrated the strongest positive associations with sleep measures. Structural equation modeling indicated that Auditory and Visual Hallucinations significantly positively predicted dissociated experiences related to REM sleep, while paranormal experience did not. However, paranormal experience was a significant predictor when analysis controlled for Auditory and Visual Hallucinations. The moderate positive association between these variables explained this effect. Findings indicated that self-generated, productive cognitive-processes (as encompassed by Auditory and Visual Hallucinations) played a significant role in conscious control and awareness of lucid dreaming, and related dissociative sleep states (sleep paralysis and nightmares).
Project description:Nightmares are defined as repeated occurrences of extremely dysphoric and well-remembered dreams that usually involve subjective threats to survival, security, or physical integrity. Generally, they occur during rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) and lead to awakenings with distress and insufficient overnight sleep. Nightmares may occur spontaneously (idiopathic) or as recurrent nightmares. Recurrent nightmares cause significant distress and impairment in occupational and social functioning, as have been commonly observed in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. By contrast, during lucid dreaming (LD), subjects get insight they are dreaming and may even control the content of their dreams. These features may open a way to help those who suffer from nightmare disorder through re-significations of the dream scene, i.e., knowing that they are dreaming and having control over their dream content. Thus, lucid dreamers might be able to render nightmares normal dreams, thereby assuring a restoring sleep. The aim of the present study is to review the existing literature of the use of LD as an auxiliary tool for treatment of nightmares. We conducted a careful literature search for eligible studies on the use of LD treatment for nightmares. We observed that whereas LD may be a feasible aid in the treatment of patients with nightmares through minimizing their frequency, intensity and psychological distress, the available literature is still scarce and does not provide consistent results. We conclude therefore that more research is clearly warranted for a better estimation of the effective conductance and therapeutic outcome of LD treatment in clinical practice.
Project description:Humans are typically unable to engage in sustained smooth pursuit for imagined objects. However, it is unknown to what extent smooth tracking occurs for visual imagery during REM sleep dreaming. Here we examine smooth pursuit eye movements during tracking of a slow-moving visual target during lucid dreams in REM sleep. Highly similar smooth pursuit tracking was observed during both waking perception and lucid REM sleep dreaming, in contrast to the characteristically saccadic tracking observed during visuomotor imagination. Our findings suggest that, in this respect, the visual imagery that occurs during REM sleep is more similar to perception than imagination. The data also show that the neural circuitry of smooth pursuit can be driven by a visual percept in the absence of retinal stimulation and that specific voluntary shifts in the direction of experienced gaze within REM sleep dreams are accompanied by corresponding rotations of the physical eyes.
Project description:During sleep, humans experience the offline images and sensations that we call dreams, which are typically emotional and lacking in rational judgment of their bizarreness. However, during lucid dreaming (LD), subjects know that they are dreaming, and may control oneiric content. Dreaming and LD features have been studied in North Americans, Europeans and Asians, but not among Brazilians, the largest population in Latin America. Here we investigated dreams and LD characteristics in a Brazilian sample (n = 3,427; median age = 25 years) through an online survey. The subjects reported recalling dreams at least once a week (76%), and that dreams typically depicted actions (93%), known people (92%), sounds/voices (78%), and colored images (76%). The oneiric content was associated with plans for the upcoming days (37%), memories of the previous day (13%), or unrelated to the dreamer (30%). Nightmares usually depicted anxiety/fear (65%), being stalked (48%), or other unpleasant sensations (47%). These data corroborate Freudian notion of day residue in dreams, and suggest that dreams and nightmares are simulations of life situations that are related to our psychobiological integrity. Regarding LD, we observed that 77% of the subjects experienced LD at least once in life (44% up to 10 episodes ever), and for 48% LD subjectively lasted less than 1 min. LD frequency correlated weakly with dream recall frequency (r = 0.20, p < 0.01), and LD control was rare (29%). LD occurrence was facilitated when subjects did not need to wake up early (38%), a situation that increases rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) duration, or when subjects were under stress (30%), which increases REMS transitions into waking. These results indicate that LD is relatively ubiquitous but rare, unstable, difficult to control, and facilitated by increases in REMS duration and transitions to wake state. Together with LD incidence in USA, Europe and Asia, our data from Latin America strengthen the notion that LD is a general phenomenon of the human species.
Project description:Sleep significantly changes across the lifespan, and several studies underline its crucial role in cognitive functioning. Similarly, mental activity during sleep tends to covary with age. This review aims to analyze the characteristics of dreaming and disturbing dreams at different age brackets. On the one hand, dreams may be considered an expression of brain maturation and cognitive development, showing relations with memory and visuo-spatial abilities. Some investigations reveal that specific electrophysiological patterns, such as frontal theta oscillations, underlie dreams during sleep, as well as episodic memories in the waking state, both in young and older adults. On the other hand, considering the role of dreaming in emotional processing and regulation, the available literature suggests that mental sleep activity could have a beneficial role when stressful events occur at different age ranges. We highlight that nightmares and bad dreams might represent an attempt to cope the adverse events, and the degrees of cognitive-brain maturation could impact on these mechanisms across the lifespan. Future investigations are necessary to clarify these relations. Clinical protocols could be designed to improve cognitive functioning and emotional regulation by modifying the dream contents or the ability to recall/non-recall them.
Project description:About 80% of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients suffer from nightmares or dysphoric dreams that cause major distress and impact nighttime or daytime functioning. Lucid dreaming (LD) is a learnable and effective strategy to cope with nightmares and has positive effects on other sleep variables. In LDs, the dreamer is aware of the dreaming state and able to control the dream content. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of lucid dreaming therapy (LDT) in patients suffering from PTSD. We suggest that learning a technique that enables the affected subjects to regulate the occurrence and content of nightmares autonomously increases the chance of coping with the complex symptoms of PTSD and can reduce suffering. Sleep quality (PSQI, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), daytime sleepiness (ESS, Epworth Sleepiness Scale), quality of life (MQLI, Multicultural Quality of Life Index), psychological distress (SCL-90-R, Symptom Checklist 90-Revised), distress caused by traumatic events (IE-S, Impact of Events Scale), anxiety (SAS, Self-Rating Anxiety Scale), depression (SDS, Self-Rating Depression Scale), and nightmare severity were assessed in a self-rating questionnaire before and after the intervention. LDT had no effect on the investigated sleep variables. No correlation between reduction of nightmare severity and changes in PTSD-profile (IE-S) was found. Nevertheless, levels of anxiety and depression decreased significantly in the course of therapy. LDT could provide an alternate or complementary treatment option for nightmares in PTSD, specifically for symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Project description:Humans typically lack awareness that they are dreaming while dreaming. However, at times a remarkable exception occurs and reflective consciousness can be regained while dreaming, referred to as lucid dreaming. While most individuals experience lucid dreams rarely there is substantial variance in lucid dream frequency. The neurobiological basis of lucid dreaming is unknown, but evidence points to involvement of anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC) and parietal cortex. This study evaluated the neuroanatomical/neurofunctional correlates of frequent lucid dreams and specifically whether functional connectivity of aPFC is associated with frequent lucid dreams. We analyzed structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging from an exceptional sample of fourteen individuals who reported ?3 lucid dreams/week and a control group matched on age, gender and dream recall that reported ?1 lucid dream/year. Compared to controls, the frequent lucid dream group showed significantly increased resting-state functional connectivity between left aPFC and bilateral angular gyrus, bilateral middle temporal gyrus and right inferior frontal gyrus, and higher node degree and strength in left aPFC. In contrast, no significant differences in brain structure were observed. Our results suggest that frequent lucid dreaming is associated with increased functional connectivity between aPFC and temporoparietal association areas, regions normally deactivated during sleep.
Project description:Lucid dreaming is a remarkable state of consciousness in which one is aware of the fact that one is dreaming while continuing to dream. Based on the strong relationship between physiological activation during rapid eye-movement sleep and lucid dreaming, our pilot research investigated whether enhancing cortical activation via acetylcholinesterease inhibition (AChEI) would increase the frequency of lucid dreams and found AChEI to be a promising method for lucid dream induction. In the current study we sought to quantify the size and reliability of the effect of AChEI on lucid dreaming, dream recall and dream content as well as to test the effectiveness of an integrated lucid dream induction protocol which combined cholinergic stimulation with other methods for lucid dream induction. Participants (N = 121) with high dream recall and an interest in lucid dreaming were randomly assigned counterbalanced orders of 3 doses of galantamine (0, 4 and 8 mg). On 3 consecutive nights, they awoke approximately 4.5 hours after lights out, recalled a dream, ingested the capsules and stayed out of bed for at least 30 minutes. Participants then returned to bed and practiced the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams technique while returning to sleep. The percentage of participants who reported a lucid dream was significantly increased for both 4 mg (27%, odds ratio = 2.29) and 8 mg doses (42%, odds ratio = 4.46) compared to the active placebo procedure (14%). Galantamine also significantly increased dream recall, sensory vividness and complexity (p<0.05). Dream recall, cognitive clarity, control, positive emotion, vividness and self-reflection were increased during lucid compared to non-lucid dreams (p<0.0001). These results show that galantamine increases the frequency of lucid dreams in a dose-related manner. Furthermore, the integrated method of taking galantamine in the last third of the night with at least 30 minutes of sleep interruption and with an appropriately focused mental set is one of the most effective methods for inducing lucid dreams available today.
Project description:Sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming are both dissociated experiences related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Anecdotal evidence suggests that episodes of sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming are related but different experiences. In this study we test this claim systematically for the first time in an online survey with 1928 participants (age range: 18-82 years; 53% female). Confirming anecdotal evidence, sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming frequency were related positively and this association was most apparent between lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis episodes featuring vestibular-motor hallucinations. Dissociative experiences were the only common (positive) predictor of both sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming. Both experiences showed different associations with other key variables of interest: sleep paralysis was predicted by sleep quality, anxiety and life stress, whereas lucid dreaming was predicted by a positive constructive daydreaming style and vividness of sensory imagery. Overall, results suggest that dissociative experiences during wakefulness are reflected in dissociative experiences during REM sleep; while sleep paralysis is related primarily to issues of sleep quality and wellbeing, lucid dreaming may reflect a continuation of greater imaginative capacity and positive imagery in waking states.