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Nocturnal dreaming: A replica or a distortion of waking life experiences?

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Many psychological studies of dreaming have revealed a continuity between waking and sleep consciousness, with evidence ranging from the dominance of visual modality to the rumination over personal concerns in dreams. Such continuity led to the proposal that dreaming can be used as a research model of waking consciousness (Antti Revonsuo). On the other hand, many discrepancies have been observed between waking and dreaming activities, e.g. we read or browse a lot during the daytime but seldom in dreams. Moreover, dreams are often made of bizarre social encounters as well as temporal and spatial discontinuities with very minimal insight into the hallucinatory nature of these experiences. This led to the proposal that dreaming can be treated as a model of psychosis rather than typical waking consciousness (Allan Hobson). While psychological studies continue informing (and challenging) both of these accounts, recent cognitive neuroscience experiments brought new evidence regarding continuity of the neural correlates of behavioural, cognitive and perceptual functions between waking life and dreaming. For instance, inhibition of the primary sensorimotor cortex during sleep reduces the frequency of motor dreams, while the anger in dreams is associated with frontal alpha asymmetry – a neural marker of the affective processing during wakefulness. The implication of such findings for continuity/discontinuity debate is discussed, as well as the emerging new directions for the science of dreaming.

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