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Concept: Dream


Mammalian sleep consists of distinct rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) states. The midbrain region ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is known to be important for gating REM sleep, but the underlying neuronal mechanism is not well understood. Here, we show that activating vlPAG GABAergic neurons in mice suppresses the initiation and maintenance of REM sleep while consolidating NREM sleep, partly through their projection to the dorsolateral pons. Cell-type-specific recording and calcium imaging reveal that most vlPAG GABAergic neurons are strongly suppressed at REM sleep onset and activated at its termination. In addition to the rapid changes at brain state transitions, their activity decreases gradually between REM sleep and is reset by each REM episode in a duration-dependent manner, mirroring the accumulation and dissipation of REM sleep pressure. Thus, vlPAG GABAergic neurons powerfully gate REM sleep, and their firing rate modulation may contribute to the ultradian rhythm of REM/NREM alternation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Sleep, Hippocampus, Rapid eye movement sleep, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Sleep physiology


When subjects become unconscious, there is a characteristic change in the way the cerebral cortex responds to perturbations, as can be assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroencephalography (TMS-EEG). For instance, compared to wakefulness, during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep TMS elicits a larger positive-negative wave, fewer phase-locked oscillations, and an overall simpler response. However, many physiological variables also change when subjects go from wake to sleep, anesthesia, or coma. To avoid these confounding factors, we focused on NREM sleep only and measured TMS-evoked EEG responses before awakening the subjects and asking them if they had been conscious (dreaming) or not. As shown here, when subjects reported no conscious experience upon awakening, TMS evoked a larger negative deflection and a shorter phase-locked response compared to when they reported a dream. Moreover, the amplitude of the negative deflection-a hallmark of neuronal bistability according to intracranial studies-was inversely correlated with the length of the dream report (i.e., total word count). These findings suggest that variations in the level of consciousness within the same physiological state are associated with changes in the underlying bistability in cortical circuits.

Concepts: Brain, Sleep, Cerebral cortex, Consciousness, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Unconscious mind, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream


Sleep and memory are deeply related, but the nature of the neuroplastic processes induced by sleep remains unclear. Here, we report that memory traces can be both formed or suppressed during sleep, depending on sleep phase. We played samples of acoustic noise to sleeping human listeners. Repeated exposure to a novel noise during Rapid Eye Movements (REM) or light non-REM (NREM) sleep leads to improvements in behavioral performance upon awakening. Strikingly, the same exposure during deep NREM sleep leads to impaired performance upon awakening. Electroencephalographic markers of learning extracted during sleep confirm a dissociation between sleep facilitating memory formation (light NREM and REM sleep) and sleep suppressing learning (deep NREM sleep). We can trace these neural changes back to transient sleep events, such as spindles for memory facilitation and slow waves for suppression. Thus, highly selective memory processes are active during human sleep, with intertwined episodes of facilitative and suppressive plasticity.Though memory and sleep are related, it is still unclear whether new memories can be formed during sleep. Here, authors show that people could learn new sounds during REM or light non-REM sleep, but that learning was suppressed when sounds were played during deep NREM sleep.

Concepts: Psychology, Sleep, Memory, Rapid eye movement sleep, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Slow-wave sleep, Sleep physiology


Consciousness never fades during waking. However, when awakened from sleep, we sometimes recall dreams and sometimes recall no experiences. Traditionally, dreaming has been identified with rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, characterized by wake-like, globally ‘activated’, high-frequency electroencephalographic activity. However, dreaming also occurs in non-REM (NREM) sleep, characterized by prominent low-frequency activity. This challenges our understanding of the neural correlates of conscious experiences in sleep. Using high-density electroencephalography, we contrasted the presence and absence of dreaming in NREM and REM sleep. In both NREM and REM sleep, reports of dream experience were associated with local decreases in low-frequency activity in posterior cortical regions. High-frequency activity in these regions correlated with specific dream contents. Monitoring this posterior ‘hot zone’ in real time predicted whether an individual reported dreaming or the absence of dream experiences during NREM sleep, suggesting that it may constitute a core correlate of conscious experiences in sleep.

Concepts: Sleep, Neuroscience, Cerebral cortex, Consciousness, Unconscious mind, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Dreaming


Bilateral damage to the basal ganglia causes auto-activation deficit, a neuropsychological syndrome characterized by striking apathy, with a loss of self-driven behaviour that is partially reversible with external stimulation. Some patients with auto-activation deficit also experience a mental emptiness, which is defined as an absence of any self-reported thoughts. We asked whether this deficit in spontaneous activation of mental processing may be reversed during REM sleep, when dreaming activity is potentially elicited by bottom-up brainstem stimulation on the cortex. Sleep and video monitoring over two nights and cognitive tests were performed on 13 patients with auto-activation deficit secondary to bilateral striato-pallidal lesions and 13 healthy subjects. Dream mentations were collected from home diaries and after forced awakenings in non-REM and REM sleep. The home diaries were blindly analysed for length, complexity and bizarreness. A mental blank during wakefulness was complete in six patients and partial in one patient. Four (31%) patients with auto-activation deficit (versus 92% of control subjects) reported mentations when awakened from REM sleep, even when they demonstrated a mental blank during the daytime (n = 2). However, the patients' dream reports were infrequent, short, devoid of any bizarre or emotional elements and tended to be less complex than the dream mentations of control subjects. The sleep duration, continuity and stages were similar between the groups, except for a striking absence of sleep spindles in 6 of 13 patients with auto-activation deficit, despite an intact thalamus. The presence of spontaneous dreams in REM sleep in the absence of thoughts during wakefulness in patients with auto-activation deficit supports the idea that simple dream imagery is generated by brainstem stimulation and is sent to the sensory cortex. However, the lack of complexity in these dream mentations suggests that the full dreaming process (scenario, emotions, etc.) require these sensations to be interpreted by higher-order cortical areas. The absence of sleep spindles in localized lesions in the basal ganglia highlights the role of the pallidum and striatum in spindling activity during non-REM sleep.

Concepts: Psychology, Sleep, Cerebral cortex, Basal ganglia, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Primate basal ganglia system, Dream, Dreaming


Incorporation of details from waking life events into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep dreams has been found to be highest on the 2 nights after, and then 5-7 nights after, the event. These are termed, respectively, the day-residue and dream-lag effects. This study is the first to categorize types of waking life experiences and compare their incorporation into dreams across multiple successive nights. Thirty-eight participants completed a daily diary each evening and a dream diary each morning for 14 days. In the daily diary, three categories of experiences were reported: major daily activities (MDAs), personally significant events (PSEs) and major concerns (MCs). After the 14-day period each participant identified the correspondence between items in their daily diaries and subsequent dream reports. The day-residue and dream-lag effects were found for the incorporation of PSEs into dreams (effect sizes of .33 and .27, respectively), but only for participants (n = 19) who had a below-median total number of correspondences between daily diary items and dream reports (termed “low-incorporators” as opposed to “high-incorporators”). Neither the day-residue or dream-lag effects were found for MDAs or MCs. This U-shaped timescale of incorporation of events from daily life into dreams has been proposed to reflect REM sleep-dependent memory consolidation, possibly related to emotional memory processing. This study had a larger sample size of dreams than any dream-lag study hitherto with trained participants. Coupled with previous successful replications, there is thus substantial evidence supporting the dream-lag effect and further explorations of its mechanism, including its neural underpinnings, are warranted.

Concepts: Psychology, Sleep, Memory, Personal life, Rapid eye movement sleep, Statistical power, Dream, Dreaming


Nightmares are a frequent symptom in narcolepsy. Lucid dreaming, i.e., the phenomenon of becoming aware of the dreaming state during dreaming, has been demonstrated to be of therapeutic value for recurrent nightmares. Data on lucid dreaming in narcolepsy patients, however, is sparse. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency of recalled dreams (DF), nightmares (NF), and lucid dreams (LDF) in narcolepsy patients compared to healthy controls. In addition, we explored if dream lucidity provides relief during nightmares in narcolepsy patients.

Concepts: Hallucination, Personal life, Dream, Dream journal, Dreaming, Lucid dream, False awakening, The Sandman


A few empirically supported principles can account for much of the thematic content of waking thought, including rumination, and dreams. (1) An individual’s commitments to particular goals sensitize the individual to respond to cues associated with those goals. The cues may be external or internal in the person’s own mental activity. The responses may take the form of noticing the cues, storing them in memory, having thoughts or dream segments related to them, and/or taking action. Noticing may be conscious or not. Goals may be any desired endpoint of a behavioral sequence, including finding out more about something, i.e., exploring possible goals, such as job possibilities or personal relationships. (2) Such responses are accompanied and perhaps preceded by protoemotional activity or full emotional arousal, the amplitude of which determines the likelihood of response and is related to the value placed on the goal. (3) When the individual is in a situation conducive to making progress toward attaining the goal, the response to goal cues takes the form of actions or operant mental acts that advance the goal pursuit. (4) When circumstances are unfavorable for goal-directed operant behavior, the response remains purely mental, as in mind-wandering and dreaming, but still reflects the content of the goal pursuit or associated content. (5) Respondent responses such as mind-wandering are more likely when the individual is mentally unoccupied with ongoing tasks and less likely the more that is at stake in the ongoing task. The probability of respondent thought is highest during relaxed periods, when the brain’s default-mode network dominates, or during sleep. The article briefly summarizes neurocognitive findings that relate to mind-wandering and evidence regarding adverse effects of mind-wandering on task performance as well as evidence suggesting adaptive functions in regard to creative problem-solving, planning, resisting delay discounting, and memory consolidation.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Memory, Mind, Activity, Behaviorism, Task, Dream


We have investigated the amplitude and phase of spontaneous low-frequency oscillations (LFOs) of the cerebral deoxy- and oxy-hemoglobin concentrations ([Hb] and [HbO]) in a human sleep study using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Amplitude and phase analysis was based on the analytic signal method, and phasor algebra was used to decompose measured [Hb] and [HbO] oscillations into cerebral blood volume (CBV) and flow velocity (CBFV) oscillations. We have found a greater phase lead of [Hb] vs. [HbO] LFOs during non-REM sleep with respect to the awake and REM sleep states (maximum increase in [Hb] phase lead: ~π/2). Furthermore, during non-REM sleep, the amplitudes of [Hb] and [HbO] LFOs are suppressed with respect to the awake and REM sleep states (maximum amplitude decrease: 87%). The associated cerebral blood volume and flow velocity oscillations are found to maintain their relative phase difference during sleep, whereas their amplitudes are attenuated during non-REM sleep. These results show the potential of phase-amplitude analysis of [Hb] and [HbO] oscillations measured by NIRS in the investigation of hemodynamics associated with cerebral physiology, activation, and pathological conditions.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Sleep, Mathematical analysis, Near infrared spectroscopy, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Analytic signal, Phasor


This article presents a report on the 2nd meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research, held on September 12th and 13th 2013 at Durham University, UK. Twelve working groups involving specialists in each area presented their findings and sought to summarize the available knowledge, inconsistencies in the field, and ways to progress. The 12 working groups reported on the following domains of investigation: cortical organisation of hallucinations, nonclinical hallucinations, interdisciplinary approaches to phenomenology, culture and hallucinations, subtypes of auditory verbal hallucinations, a Psychotic Symptoms Rating Scale multisite study, visual hallucinations in the psychosis spectrum, hallucinations in children and adolescents, Research Domain Criteria behavioral constructs and hallucinations, new methods of assessment, psychological therapies, and the Hearing Voices Movement approach to understanding and working with voices. This report presents a summary of this meeting and outlines 10 hot spots for hallucination research, which include the in-depth examination of (1) the social determinants of hallucinations, (2) translation of basic neuroscience into targeted therapies, (3) different modalities of hallucination, (4) domain convergence in cross-diagnostic studies, (5) improved methods for assessing hallucinations in nonclinical samples, (6) using humanities and social science methodologies to recontextualize hallucinatory experiences, (7) developmental approaches to better understand hallucinations, (8) changing the memory or meaning of past trauma to help recovery, (9) hallucinations in the context of sleep and sleep disorders, and (10) subtypes of hallucinations in a therapeutic context.

Concepts: Schizophrenia, Hallucination, Psychosis, Dream, Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, Hallucinations in the sane, Apparitional experience