News Release 

Brain marker for angry dreams

Sleep study advances understanding of emotions experienced during dreaming

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Figure 2. Dream Anger and its relationship to frontal alpha asymmetry. (C) Partial correlation coefficients between dream Anger and log-transformed alpha power over individual electrode sites, while controlling for the... view more 

Credit: Sikka et al., JNeurosci (2019)

Researchers have identified a pattern of brain activity that predicts anger experienced during dreaming, according to a new study of healthy adults published in JNeurosci. The research could potentially inform efforts to understand the neural basis of the emotional content of nightmares, a feature of various mental and sleep disorders.

Although emotions are experienced during both waking and dreaming, few studies have investigated the brain mechanisms underlying the affective component of dreams. Pilleriin Sikka and colleagues at University of Turku, University of Skövde, and University of Cambridge discovered a shared emotional mechanism between the two states of consciousness.

The researchers obtained electroencephalography recordings from participants during two separate nights in a sleep laboratory. After five-minute bouts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, participants were awoken and asked to describe their dream and rate the emotions they experienced in the dream. Individuals who displayed greater alpha-band brain activity in the right, as compared to the left, frontal cortex during evening wakefulness and during REM sleep experienced more anger in dreams. This neural signature - called frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) - has been linked to anger and self-regulation during wakefulness. Together, these results suggest FAA may reflect a universal indicator of emotion regulation.

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Manuscript title: EEG Frontal Alpha Asymmetry and Dream Affect: Alpha Oscillations Over the Right Frontal Cortex During REM Sleep and Pre-Sleep Wakefulness Predict Anger in REM Sleep Dreams

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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