Researchers believe they have identified a pattern of brain activity that predicts anger during dreaming.
They are right, this might help explain the neural basis of the emotional content of nightmares, which are associated with mental and sleep disorders, such as anxiety, depression and insomnia.
While humans experience emotions both while awake and while dreaming, there has been only limited research into the brain mechanisms underlying the affective component of dreams.
In the recent study, Pillerin Sikka and colleagues at University of Turku, Finland, University of Skovde, Sweden, and University of Cambridge, UK, discovered a shared emotional mechanism between the two states of consciousness.
The researchers obtained electroencephalography recordings from 1
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It was discovered that those who displayed greater alpha-band brain activity in the right frontal cortex, compared to the left, both during evening wakefulness and during sleep sleep experience.
This neural signature – called frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) – has been linked to anger and self-regulation during wakefulness.
"We show that with greater FAA (ie greater right-sided alpha power) during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and during evening wakefulness, experience more anger in dreams," the researchers write in a paper published in the journal JNeurosci .
"FAA may thus reflect the ability to regulate emotions not only in the wake but also in the dreaming state."
There were limitations to the study – notably that it was carried out under laboratory conditions – but the researchers suggest their findings "provide support for theories according to which dreaming is a realistic simulation of waking life".
They stress, however, that on the strength of this study alone it is not possible to say whether the particular neural activation addition dream anger supports on certain function, such as to experience threatening situations or negative affective states in order to better deal with them in waking life.