To dream or not to dream, that is the question. Well, it would seem that after centuries of asking questions about what dream are or why do we dream we’re finally getting some answers. A new study from the University of Wisconsin – Madison reveals a hot zone related to the process of dreaming and challenges most of the things we know about this process.
During a recent interview, Giulio Tononi, one of the study’s authors and a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, declared that we are one step closer to deciphering why we dream. The study, which was published in the Natura Neuroscience journal, shows that there is a brain hot zone, which fires up when we dream.
For the purpose of this new study, Tononi and the team of scientists asked 32 volunteers to partake in the clinical trial, which involved electroencephalography, answering questions related to dream content, and being woken up several times in the middle of the night.
As explained by the study’s author, dreaming is one of the most controversial and hard to tackle subjects in neurosciences. Although we know that there are four major sleep stages, up until now, scientists believed that an individual could only dream once he or she entered the rapid eye movement (REM) stage.
However, the findings of this new study prove that an individual is capable of dreaming even outside of REM sleep. Following the EEG scans, Tononi and his team of scientists confirmed that each time we dream, a whole brain area lights up like a Christmas tree. This area which is seemingly related to dreams is located in the back of the brain and is called the posterior cortical zone. Scans revealed that spikes in brain wave activity signified that the individual was experiencing dreams, while low activity meant that the individual was asleep, but not dreaming.
After waking up the participants during the night and asking them what they’ve dreamt about, Tononi compared their answers to the EEG scans and managed to create a rudimentary dream map. More specifically, after reviewing the patients’ answers and confronting them with the brain activity, the scientists managed to figure out if dreamt about people’s faces, talking to someone, or moving inside the dream world.
Although the results of this new study focused on dreaming are encouraging and a step forward in the right direction, Tononi declared that more research is needed to figure out why we dream.
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