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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Luigi De Gennaro.

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Scarpelli, S., D’Atri, A., Mangiaruga, A. et al. Predicting Dream Recall: EEG Activation During NREM Sleep or Shared Mechanisms with Wakefulness?. Brain Topogr 30, 629–638 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10548-017-0563-1

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Keywords

  • Dream recall
  • EEG correlates
  • NREM sleep
  • Nap
  • Activation model
  • Delta activity