Beyond the neuropsychology of dreaming: Insights into the neural basis of dreaming with new techniques of sleep recording and analysis

Carlo Cipolli, Michele Ferrara, Luigi De Gennaro, Giuseppe Plazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent advances in electrophysiological [e.g., surface high-density electroencephalographic (hd-EEG) and intracranial recordings], video-polysomnography (video-PSG), transcranial stimulation and neuroimaging techniques allow more in-depth and more accurate investigation of the neural correlates of dreaming in healthy individuals and in patients with brain-damage, neurodegenerative diseases, sleep disorders or parasomnias. Convergent evidence provided by studies using these techniques in healthy subjects has led to a reformulation of several unresolved issues of dream generation and recall [such as the inter- and intra-individual differences in dream recall and the predictivity of specific EEG rhythms, such as theta in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, for dream recall] within more comprehensive models of human consciousness and its variations across sleep/wake states than the traditional models, which were largely based on the neurophysiology of REM sleep in animals. These studies are casting new light on the neural bases (in particular, the activity of dorsal medial prefrontal cortex regions and hippocampus and amygdala areas) of the inter- and intra-individual differences in dream recall, the temporal location of specific contents or properties (e.g., lucidity) of dream experience and the processing of memories accessed during sleep and incorporated into dream content. Hd-EEG techniques, used on their own or in combination with neuroimaging, appear able to provide further important insights into how the brain generates not only dreaming during sleep but also some dreamlike experiences in waking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-20
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Cognitive processes
  • Dream recall
  • Dreaming
  • EEG correlates
  • Intracranial EEG recordings
  • Neuroimaging techniques
  • REM sleep
  • State-/trait-like differences
  • Video-polysomnography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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