Cortical activation during sleep predicts dream experience in narcolepsy

Aurora D'Atri, Serena Scarpelli, Cinzia Schiappa, Fabio Pizza, Stefano Vandi, Michele Ferrara, Carlo Cipolli, Giuseppe Plazzi, Luigi De Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Narcolepsy type 1 widely affects the architecture of sleep with frequent fast transition to REM sleep at both nighttime and daytime sleep onset. The occurrence of repeated sleep onset REM periods over the Multiple Sleep Latency Test offers a unique opportunity to identify EEG patterns predictive of successful dream recall after short periods composed of only REM or NREM sleep. It also permits to disentangle state- from trait-like differences in dream recall, by using a within-subjects design. Methods: A consecutive series of 115 first-diagnosed drug-free adult narcolepsy-type 1 patients underwent Multiple Sleep Latency Tests and were asked after each nap opportunity if they had or had not a dream experience. Scalp EEG power and a specific index of cortical activation (delta/beta power ratio), obtained from naps of 43 patients with both presence and absence of dream recall in the same sleep stage, were compared separately for REM and NREM sleep. Results: Successful dream recall was associated with an increased EEG desynchronization in both REM and NREM over partially overlapping cortical areas. Compared to unsuccessful recall, it showed (1) lower delta power over centro-parietal areas during both stages, (2) higher beta power in the same cortical areas during NREM, and (3) lower values in the delta/beta ratio during NREM in most scalp locations. Interpretation: A more activated electrophysiological milieu in both REM and NREM sleep promotes dream recall, strengthening the notion that the parietal areas are crucial not only in generating dream experience, as shown in brain-damaged patients, but also in the memory processing leading to recall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-455
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Translational Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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