• Research Shows Bad Dreams Help Us Face Fear

    Article by Amelia Harris

    © Stefan Keller

    Dreams are an ongoing enigma that people have been attempting to interpret since ancient times. Some are pleasurable, some are terrifying, and others are downright surreal. But can nightmares actually serve a purpose? New research explores how bad dreams help us deal with fear.

    A research team composed of scientists from the University of Geneva and University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland, collaborated with the University of Wisconsin to complete this research. They studied the dreams of several individuals and analyzed which areas of the brain were most active during the dreams. When the participants woke up, they tested changes in the effectiveness of the brain areas that control emotions when experiencing fear. 

    We were particularly interested in fear: what areas of our brain are activated when we’re having bad dreams?” says Lampros Perogamvros. Perogamvros is a researcher in the Sleep and Cognition Laboratory at the University of Geneva, as well as a senior clinical lecturer at the University Hospitals of Geneva’s Sleep Laboratory. 

    There were 18 participants in the study. The scientists used high-density electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity during sleep. Participants had 256 EEG electrodes attached to their skulls. The scientists woke them up several times during the night and asked them a series of questions. The questions included, “Did you dream? And, if so, did you feel scared?” 

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