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oneirology, oneirology meaning
Oneirology /ɒnᵻˈrɒlədʒi/; from Greek ὄνειρον, oneiron, "dream"; and -λογία, -logia, "the study of" is the scientific study of dreams Current research seeks correlations between dreaming and current knowledge about the functions of the brain, as well as understanding of how the brain works during dreaming as pertains to memory formation and mental disorders The study of oneirology can be distinguished from dream interpretation in that the aim is to quantitatively study the process of dreams instead of analyzing the meaning behind them


  • 1 History
  • 2 Field of work
  • 3 Mechanisms of dreaming
    • 31 Stages of sleep
    • 32 REM sleep
  • 4 Definition of a dream
    • 41 Authentic dreaming
    • 42 Illusory dreaming
  • 5 Influences on dreaming
    • 51 Memories and experience
      • 511 Interpersonal attachment
    • 52 Drugs affecting dreaming
  • 6 Dreaming disorders
    • 61 Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • 62 Schizophrenia
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading


In the 19th century two advocates of this discipline were the French sinologists Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys and Alfred Maury The field gained momentum in 1952, when Nathaniel Kleitman and his student Eugene Aserinsky discovered regular cycles A further experiment by Kleitman and William C Dement, then another medical student, demonstrated the particular period of sleep during which electrical brain activity, as measured by an electroencephalograph EEG, closely resembled that of waking, in which the eyes dart about actively This kind of sleep became known as rapid eye movement REM sleep, and Kleitman and Dement's experiment found a correlation of 80 between REM sleep and dreaming

Field of workedit

Research into dreams includes exploration of the mechanisms of dreaming, the influences on dreaming, and disorders linked to dreaming Work in oneirology overlaps with neurology and can vary from quantifying dreams, to analyzing brain waves during dreaming, to studying the effects of drugs and neurotransmitters on sleeping or dreaming Though debate continues about the purpose and origins of dreams, there could be great gains from studying dreams as a function of brain activity For example, the knowledge gained in this area could have implications in the treatment of certain types of mental illnesses It can help people learn about the meaning of your dreams and explain as to why we have nightmares

Mechanisms of dreamingedit

Dreaming occurs mainly during REM sleep, and brain scans recording brain activity have witnessed heavy activity in the limbic system and the amygdala during this period Though current research has reversed the myth that dreaming occurs only during REM sleep, it has also shown that the dreams reported in non-rapid eye movement NREM and REM differ qualitatively and quantitatively, suggesting that the mechanisms that control each are different1

During REM sleep, researchers theorize that the brain goes through a process known as synaptic efficacy refreshment This is observed as brain waves self-firing during sleep, in slow cycles at a rate of around 14 Hz, and is believed to serve the purpose of consolidating recent memories and reinforcing old memories In this type of brain stimulation, the dreaming that occurs is a by-product of the process2

Stages of sleepedit

During normal sleep cycles, humans alternate between NREM sleep and REM sleep The brain waves characteristic of dreaming that are observed during REM sleep are the most commonly studied in dream research because most dreaming occurs during the deep sleep which is signaled by REM1

REM sleepedit

Main article: REM sleep EEG showing brainwaves during REM sleep

In 1952, Eugene Aserinsky discovered REM sleep while working in the surgery of his PhD advisor Aserinsky noticed that the sleepers' eyes fluttered beneath their closed eyelids, later using a polygraph machine to record their brain waves during these periods In one session, he awakened a subject who was wailing and crying out during REM and confirmed his suspicion that dreaming was occurring3 In 1953, Aserinsky and his advisor published the ground-breaking study in Science4

Accumulated observation shows that dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep, during which an electroencephalogram shows brain activity to be most like wakefulness Participant-nonremembered dreams during NREM are normally more mundane in comparison5 During a typical lifespan, a human spends a total of about six years dreaming6 which is about two hours each night7 Most dreams last only 5 to 20 minutes6 It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate, if there is a single origin for dreams, if multiple portions of the brain are involved, or what the purpose of dreaming is for the body or mind

During REM sleep, the release of certain neurotransmitters is completely suppressed As a result, motor neurons are not stimulated, a condition known as REM atonia This prevents dreams from resulting in dangerous movements of the body89

Animals have complex dreams and are able to retain and recall long sequences of events while they are asleep1011 Studies show that various species of mammals and birds experience REM during sleep,12 and follow the same series of sleeping states as humans10

The discovery that dreams take place primarily during a distinctive electrophysiological state of sleep REM, which can be identified by objective criteria, led to rebirth of interest in this phenomenon When REM sleep episodes were timed for their duration and subjects awakened to make reports before major editing or forgetting could take place, it was determined that subjects accurately matched the length of time they judged the dream narrative to occupy with the length of REM sleep that preceded the awakening This close correlation of REM sleep and dream experience was the basis of the first series of reports describing the nature of dreaming: that it is a regular nightly occurrence, rather than an occasional phenomenon, and that it is a high-frequency activity within each sleep period occurring at predictable intervals of approximately every 60–90 minutes in all humans throughout the life spancitation needed

REM sleep episodes and the dreams that accompany them lengthen progressively across the night, with the first episode the shortest, of approximately 10–12 minutes duration, and the second and third episodes increasing to 15–20 minutes Dreams at the end of the night may last typically 15 minutes, although these may be experienced as several distinct stories due to momentary arousals interrupting sleep as the night endscitation needed

Dream reports can normally be made 50% of the time when an awakening occurs prior to the end of the first REM period This rate of retrieval is increased to about 99% when awakenings occur during the last REM period of the night This increase in the ability to recall appears to be related to intensification across the night in the vividness of dream imagery, colors and emotions The dream story itself in the last REM period is farthest from reality, containing more bizarre elements, and it is these properties, coupled with the increased likelihood of morning waking review to take place, that heighten the chance of recall of the last dreamcitation needed

Definition of a dreamedit

The definition of dream used in quantitative research is defined through four base components: 1 a form of thinking that occurs under minimal brain direction, external stimuli are blocked, and the part of the brain that recognizes self shuts down; 2 a form of experience that we believed we experience through our senses; 3 something memorable; 4 have some interpretation of experience by self In summary, a dream, as defined by Bill Domhoff and Adam Schneider, is "a report of a memory of a cognitive experience that happens under the kinds of conditions that are most frequently produced in a state called 'sleep' "13

Authentic dreamingedit

Authentic dreams are defined by their tendency to occur "within the realm of experience"2 and reflect actual memories or experiences the dreamer can relate to Authentic dreams are believed to be the side effect of synaptic efficacy refreshment that occurs without errors14 Research suggests that the brain stimulation that occurs during dreaming authentic dreams is significant in reinforcing neurological pathways, serving as a method for the mind to "rehearse" certain things during sleep

Illusory dreamingedit

Defined as dreams that contain impossible, incongruent, or bizarre content as the types of dreams hypothesized to stem from memory circuits accumulating efficacy errors In theory, old memories having undergone synaptic efficacy refreshment multiple times throughout one's lifetime result in accumulating errors that manifest as illusory dreams when stimulated Qualities of illusory dreaming have been linked to delusions observed in mental disorders2 Illusory dreams are believed to most likely stem from older memories that experience this accumulation of errors in contrast to authentic dreams that stem from more recent experiences

Influences on dreamingedit

One aspect of dreaming studied is the capability to externally influence the contents of dreams with various stimuli One such successful connection was made to the olfactory, influencing the emotions of dreams through a smell stimulus Their research has shown that the introduction of a positive smelling stimulus roses induced positive dreams while negative smelling stimulus rotten eggs induced negative dreams15

Memories and experienceedit

Though there is much debate within the field about the purpose of dreaming, a leading theory involves the consolidation of memories and experiences that occurs during REM sleep The electric involuntary stimulus the brain undergoes during sleep is believed to be a basis for a majority of dreaming

The link between memory, sleep, and dreams becomes more significant in studies analyzing memory consolidation during sleep Research has shown that NREM sleep is responsible for the consolidation of facts and episodes in contrast to REM sleep that consolidates more emotionally related aspects of memory16 The correlation between REM and emotional consolidation could be interpreted as the reason why dreams are of such an emotional nature and produce strong reactions from humans

Interpersonal attachmentedit

In addition to the conscious role people are aware of memory and experience playing in dreaming, unconscious effects such as health of relationships factor into the types of dreams the brain produces Of the people analyzed, those suffering from "insecure attachments" were found to dream with more frequency and more vividly than those who were evaluated to have "secure attachments"17

Drugs affecting dreamingedit

Correlations between the usage of drugs and dreaming have been documented, particularly the use of drugs, such as sedatives, and the suppression of dreaming because of drugging effects on the cycles and stages of sleep while not allowing the user to reach REM Drugs used for their stimulating properties cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy have shown to also decrease the restorative properties of REM sleep and its duration18

Dreaming disordersedit

Dreaming disorders are difficult to quantify due to the ambiguous nature of dreaming However, dreaming disorders can be linked to psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder expressed as nightmares Research into dreaming also suggests similarity and links in illusory dreaming and delusions2

Post-traumatic stress disorderedit

Diagnostic symptoms include re-experiencing original traumas, by means of flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; and increased arousal, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance

Links to post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD and dreaming have been made in studying the flashbacks or nightmares the victims would suffer Measurement of the brain waves exhibited by the subjects experiencing these episodes showed great similarity between those of dreaming The drugs used to treat those suffering from these symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares would suppress not only these traumatic episodes but also any other sort of dreaming function2


The symptoms of schizophrenia involve abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality primarily focused on delusions and hallucinations

The delusions experienced by those with schizophrenia have been likened to the experience of illusory dreams that have come to be interpreted by the subject as actual experiences2 Additional research into medication to suppress symptoms of schizophrenia have also shown to influence the REM cycle of those taking the medication and as a result influence the patterns of sleep and dreaming in the subjects19

See alsoedit

  • Oneironautics
  • The Lathe of Heaven


  1. ^ a b Takeuchi, T; Miyasita, A; Inugami, M; Yamamoto, Y 2001 "Intrinsic dreams are not produced without REM sleep mechanisms: evidence through elicitation of sleep onset REM periods" Journal of Sleep Research 10 1: 43–52 doi:101046/j1365-2869200100237x PMID 11285054 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kavanau, JL 2000 "Sleep, memory maintenance, and mental disorders" Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 12 2: 199–208 doi:101176/appineuropsych122199 PMID 11001598 
  3. ^ Dement, William 1996 The Sleepwatchers Springer-Verlag ISBN 0-9649338-0-2 
  4. ^ Aserinsky, E; Kleitman, N September 1953 "Regularly occurring periods of eye motility and concomitant phenomena, during sleep" Science 118 3062: 273–274 doi:101126/science1183062273 PMID 13089671 
  5. ^ Dement, W; Kleitman, N 1957 "The Relation of Eye Movements during Sleep to Dream Activity" Journal of Experimental Psychology 53 5: 89–97 doi:101037/h0048189 PMID 13428941 
  6. ^ a b How Dream Works 2006 Retrieved 2009-10-04 
  7. ^ "Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep" National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2006 Retrieved 2009-11-16 
  8. ^ "REM Sleep Behavior Disorder" Mayo Clinic Retrieved 2010-01-02 
  9. ^ Schutte-Rodin, Sharon "REM Sleep Behavior Disorder" yoursleepaasmnetorg American Academy of Sleep Medicine Retrieved 1 October 2011 
  10. ^ a b http://webmitedu/newsoffice/2001/dreaminghtml
  11. ^ Louie, K; Wilson, M A 2001 "Temporally Structured Replay of Awake Hippocampal Ensemble Activity during Rapid Eye Movement Sleep" Neuron 29 1: 145–156 doi:101016/S0896-62730100186-6 PMID 11182087 
  12. ^ "The Evolution of REM Dreaming" 2003 Retrieved 2009-10-27 
  13. ^ "http://psychucscedu/dreams/" 2009  External link in |title= help; Missing or empty |url= help
  14. ^ Antrobus, J 1991 Dreaming: cognitive processes during cortical activation and high afferent thresholds 98 ed Psychol Rev pp 96–120 
  15. ^ Schredl, M, Atanasova, D, Hormann, K, Maurer, JT, Hummel, T, & Stuck, BA 2009 "Information processing during sleep: the effect of olfactory stimuli on dream content and dream emotions" Journal of Sleep Research 18 3: 285–290 doi:101111/j1365-2869200900737x PMID 19552703 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  16. ^ Wagner, U & Born, J 2008 "Memory consolidation during sleep: Interactive effects of sleep stages and HPA regulation" Stress-the International Journal on the Biology of Stress 11 1: 28–41 doi:101080/10253890701408822 
  17. ^ McNamara, P; Andresen, J; Clark, J; Zborowski, M; Duffy, CA 2001 "Impact of attachment styles on dream recall and dream content: a test of the attachment hypothesis of REM sleep" Journal of Sleep Research 10 2: 117–127 doi:101046/j1365-2869200100244x PMID 11422726 
  18. ^ Schierenbeck T, Riemann D, Berger M, et al 2008 "Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: Cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine" Sleep Medicine Reviews 12 5: 381–389 doi:101016/jsmrv200712004 PMID 18313952 
  19. ^ Lusignan, F, Zadra, A, Dubuc, MJ, Daoust, AM, Mottard, JP, Godbout, R 2009 "Dream content in chronically-treated persons with schizophrenia" Schizophrenia Research 112 2: 164–173 doi:101016/jschres200903032 PMID 19409757 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link

Further readingedit

  • Aserinsky, E and N Kleitman 1953 "Regularly Occurring Periods of Eye Motility and Concomitant Phenomena during Sleep" Science 118: 273-274
  • Dement, WC and N Kleitman 1957 "The Relation of Eye Movements during Sleep to Dream Activity: An Objective Method for the Study of Dreaming" Journal of Experimental Psychology 53: 339-346
  • Domhoff, G William 2003 The Scientific Study of Dreams Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
  • Gackenbach, Jayne and Stephen LaBerge, Eds 1988 Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain New York: Plenum Press
  • Hadfield, J A 1969 Dreams and Nightmares Middlesex, England: Penguin Books
  • Hobson, J Allan The Dreaming Brain New York: Basic Books, Inc, Publishers
  • Kramer, Milton, Ed Dream Psychology and the New Biology of Dreaming Springfield, Illinois: Thomas Books
  • LaBerge, Stephen 1985 Lucid Dreaming New York: Jeremy P Tarcher Inc
  • Oswald, Ian 1972 Sleep Middlesex, England: Penguin Books
  • Van de Castle, Robert L Our Dreaming Mind New York: Ballantine Books
  • Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress: The World Within https://wwwjewishvirtuallibraryorg/jsource/loc/loc11bhtml

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