Neuropsychology of dreams

Rev Neurol. 2012 Jul 16;55(2):101-10. 
Tirapu-Ustarroz J.

Dreams are a universal human experience and studying them from the point of view of neuroscience, consciousness, emotions and cognition is quite a challenge for researchers. Thus, dreams have been addressed from a number of different perspectives ranging from philosophy to clinical medicine, as well as psychiatry, psychology, artificial intelligence, neural network models, psychophysiology or neurobiology.

The main models are grounded on the biological function of dreams, especially those based on processes involving the consolidation of memory and forgetting, and models of simulation. Similarly, current models are developed upon the neurobiology and the neuropsychology of the REM phases of sleep and how they are differentiated from wakefulness. Thus, neurobiologically speaking, dreams are related to the role of acetylcholine and, neuropsychologically, to the activation of the limbic and paralimbic regions, the activation of the basal ganglia, the activation of cortical areas with a specific modality (especially Brodmann's areas 19, 22 and 37) and the deactivation of the ventromedial, parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate.

Dreams can be considered a state of consciousness that is characterised by a reduced control over their content, visual images and activation of the memory, and which is mediated by motivational incentives and emotional salience.