AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

The Science Behind Dreaming
Have you ever woken up in the morning from a deep sleep and remembered your dream perfectly?  When recalling the dream, aren’t you surprised by how detailed it is, and wonder what its significance is?

Cristina Marzano and her colleagues at the University of Rome have conducted rigorous experiments that explain just how humans remember their dreams.  Conducting an experiment with 65 students, Marzano and her team have concluded that those participants who exhibited more low frequency theta waves in the frontal lobes were also more likely to remember their dreams.  This is interesting because these same theta waves are the ones that are usually activated while we are awake, implying that our brains use the same memory recall technique while sleeping as we do while we are awake.

Another finding of the experiment is the relation between dreams and emotions.  Dreams that are more likely to be remembered activate parts of the amygdala and hippocampus, two sophisticated parts of the brain that are also strongly related to emotions.  This evidence further supports the conclusion made in A Role for REM Sleep in Recalibrating the Sensitivity of the Human Brain to Specific Emotions , a study by Matthew Walker and colleagues at the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkley.  This group found that a reduction in REM sleep negatively influences our ability to understand complex emotions in daily life.  Thus, dreams show how memory and emotion are intertwined, as the brain attaches certain emotions to events in our lives to help us remember them.  Dreams are related in the fact that they allow us to encode and process memories to emotions that are no longer useful in helping to recall a specific memory.

Further information on emotions and how they are coded can be found on the website:


So what do you think?  After having a memorable dream, have you ever thought about its relation to memories and emotion?  Maybe that dream played a role in helping you remember everything for your test the following day.

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1 Comment

  1. helenogenous

    Great article @YAMAGUTIPLECTOGNATHOTREMA! Interesting observations about how people only tend to remember their dreams that are emotionally triggering. From my own experience, most of the dreams I do remember follow this pattern- they are nightmares! I found an interesting article that builds on this idea: This article confirms that the hippocampus is involved in dreaming just like you mentioned ! Something intriguing that was said in this article is that people don’t recall 90% of their dreams! Based on these findings and this blogpost, I wonder if this means that the bulk of our dreams are not emotionally triggering and it just seems that way because we only remember the ones that are emotionally charged.

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