Brain Topography

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 629–638 | Cite as

Predicting Dream Recall: EEG Activation During NREM Sleep or Shared Mechanisms with Wakefulness?

  • Serena Scarpelli
  • Aurora D’Atri
  • Anastasia Mangiaruga
  • Cristina Marzano
  • Maurizio Gorgoni
  • Cinzia Schiappa
  • Michele Ferrara
  • Luigi De GennaroEmail author
Original Paper


The common knowledge of a uniqueness of REM sleep as a privileged scenario of dreaming still persists, although consolidated empirical evidence shows that the assumption that dreaming is just an epiphenomenon of REM sleep is no longer tenable. However, the brain mechanisms underlying dream generation and its encoding in memory during NREM sleep are still mostly unknown. In fact, only few studies have investigated on the mechanisms of dream phenomenology related to NREM sleep. For this reason, our study is specifically aimed to elucidate the electrophysiological (EEG) correlates of dream recall (DR) upon NREM sleep awakenings. Under the assumption that EEG activity predicts the presence/absence of DR also during NREM sleep, we have investigated whether DR from stage 2 NREM sleep shares similar brain mechanisms to those involved in the encoding of episodic memory during wakefulness, or it depends on the specific electrophysiological milieu of the sleep period along the desynchronized/synchronized EEG continuum. We collected DR from a multiple nap protocol in a within-subjects design. We found that DR is predicted by an extensive reduction of delta activity during the last segment of sleep, encompassing left frontal and temporo-parietal areas. The results could represent an update on the mechanisms underlying the sleep mentation during NREM sleep. In particular, they support the hypothesis that an increased cortical EEG activation is a prerequisite for DR, and they are not necessarily in conflict with the hypothesis of common wake-sleep mechanisms. We also confirmed that EEG correlates of DR depend on a state-like relationship.


Dream recall EEG correlates NREM sleep Nap Activation model Delta activity 



This work was supported by a grant to Luigi De Gennaro from “Progetti di Ricerca di Ateneo 2014 (C26A143ZEP), 2015 (C26A158K25)” (“Sapienza” University of Rome).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects after the nature and possible consequences of the studies were explained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Serena Scarpelli
    • 1
  • Aurora D’Atri
    • 1
  • Anastasia Mangiaruga
    • 1
  • Cristina Marzano
    • 1
  • Maurizio Gorgoni
    • 1
  • Cinzia Schiappa
    • 1
  • Michele Ferrara
    • 2
  • Luigi De Gennaro
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical SciencesUniversity of L’AquilaCoppitoItaly

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