Dopaminergic system and dream recall: An MRI study in Parkinson's disease patients

Luigi De Gennaro, Olimpia Lanteri, Fabrizio Piras, Serena Scarpelli, Francesca Assogna, Michele Ferrara, Carlo Caltagirone, Gianfranco Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the role of the dopamine system [i.e., subcortical-medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) network] in dreaming, by studying patients with Parkinson's Disease (PD) as a model of altered dopaminergic transmission. Subcortical volumes and cortical thickness were extracted by 3T-MR images of 27 PD patients and 27 age-matched controls, who were asked to fill out a dream diary upon morning awakening for one week. PD patients do not substantially differ from healthy controls with respect to the sleep, dream, and neuroanatomical measures. Multivariate correlational analyses in PD patients show that dopamine agonist dosage is associated to qualitatively impoverished dreams, as expressed by lower bizarreness and lower emotional load values. Visual vividness (VV) of their dream reports positively correlates with volumes of both the amygdalae and with thickness of the left mPFC. Emotional load also positively correlates with hippocampal volume. Beside the replication of our previous finding on the role of subcortical nuclei in dreaming experience of healthy subjects, this represents the first evidence of a specific role of the amygdala-mPFC dopaminergic network system in dream recall. The association in PD patients between higher dopamine agonist dosages and impoverished dream reports, however, and the significant correlations between VV and mesolimbic regions, however, provide an empirical support to the hypothesis that a dopamine network plays a key role in dream generation. The causal relation is however precluded by the intrinsic limitation of assuming the dopamine agonist dosage as a measure of the hypodopaminergic state in PD. Hum Brain Mapp 37:1136-1147, 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1136-1147
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 24 2015


  • Amygdala
  • Dopamine
  • Dream recall
  • Dreaming
  • Hippocampus
  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Mesolimbic dopaminergic system
  • MRI
  • Sleep
  • VBM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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