We have nine keynote speakers who will provide live presentations during the conference. They are, as follows:
Mark Blagrove, PhD (UK) is Professor of Psychology and Head of the Department of Psychology at Swansea University. He is director of the Swansea sleep laboratory (www.swansea.ac.uk/sleeplab) and has published extensively on dreaming in many major journals. He is a former president of IASD and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.
Title: Exploration-Insight from Discussion of REM dreams, NREM Dreams and Daydreams Using the Ullman Dream Group Method
Summary: Discussion of home recalled dreams elicits higher exploration-insight and personal insight than does consideration of a recent significant event, using the Ullman dream group method. We show here that exploration-insight is greater following group discussion of REM and NREM dreams than for discussion of daydreams (all sleep lab collected, n=30).
Abstract: Using the Ullman dream group discussion technique (Ullman, 1996), the consideration of a recent dream report elicits significantly higher exploration-insight and personal insight than does the control condition of considering a recent waking life event (Edwards et al., 2015). However, following Noreika et al. (2010), a daydream, collected in the sleep lab, may be a more closely matched control condition for a dream report, and we use that type of comparison text for the study reported here. We recruited 31 participants, aged 18 – 30, in good health, who recall at least 3 dreams per week at home. Each participant spent 1 night in the sleep lab. Awakenings were conducted from REM and N2 sleep so as to elicit dream reports, and before sleep a daydream (DD) was obtained after wiring up and prior to sleeping. 30 participants reported a daydream and most had reports from all three conditions. Each of the participants’ transcripts was then considered in separate Ullman group sessions during the following week.
At the end of each discussion participants completed the 13 item Gains from Dream Interpretation questionnaire (Heaton et al., 1998), with (day)dream substituted for dream so that the same questionnaire could be used for all three reports. The questionnaire has an Exploration-Insight subscale, assessing insight about memory sources of dream content and insight about the self or waking life resulting from the session, with questions such as “I learned more about issues in my waking life from working with the dream.” Items are rated on a 1 – 9 scale, anchored as strongly disagree to strongly agree.
G. William Domhoff, PhD (USA) is Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus and Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of The Mystique of Dreams (1985), Finding Meaning in Dreams (1996), and The Scientific Study of Dreams (2003), as well as numerous scholarly articles on dreams.
Title: We Need Bigger and Better Samples of Dream Reports: “Most Recent Dream” Reports and Dream Journals Are The Best Answer
Summary: The study of dream content is greatly hampered by small samples containing hasty and incomplete reports. Laboratory studies are difficult to sustain and two-week dream diaries have several problems. Most Recent Dreams from large groups and dream journals kept by individuals for their own personal reasons are of proven value.
Abstract: Laboratory studies of dream content ushered in a new era of dream research by providing large samples of dream reports from dozens of participants. Content analyses of thousands of reports made it possible to develop normative baselines. Other studies demonstrated that the contents of such reports are very similar to those collected in nonlaboratory settings from the same participants, with the important exception of aggressive elements. This work established the potential value of systematically collected nonlaboratory samples. This point was further demonstrated based on the similarity of the laboratory findings to those based on semester-long dream diaries from college students. Laboratory studies proved difficult to sustain for financial and staffing reasons, and the nightly collection of lab reports from individuals over weeks or months was not feasible. Although advances in technology may make home-based EEG studies possible in the future, most content studies in recent decades have relied upon two-week dream diaries. However, based on what I have seen, including the original reports from two or three studies for which I requested copies, two-week diaries have several problems, such as hasty and short reports and the need to keep reminding participants to record dreams, which creates serious demand characteristics and may lead to made-up reports. Requested dream diaries from friends and friends of friends risk huge validity problems, as do dreams requested on the Internet. Most Recent Dreams, on the other hand, can lead to large sample sizes in classroom and clinical settings in 20 minutes for adults and 30 minutes for grades 5 and up, using only willing participants and complete reports. Results with college students replicated the Hall/Van de Castle norms in one study and have been used with children in the U.S., Spain, Italy, and Greece. The results with children are similar to lab studies of teenagers and a good two-week dream- journal study at an elite girls school in California, with the exception once again of aggression elements. Dream journals with 125 or more dream reports, already recorded by individuals for their own diverse reasons, are invaluable as unobtrusive archival data that do not suffer from any demand characteristics or incompleteness of reports. Studies show they can be analyzed with the same statistics used with group samples. Analyses of about 25 dream journals, including one from a 15-year-old boy, led to the discovery of consistency over time in most content categories in every instance, a major finding. Studies of about a dozen dream journals, including one from a 15-year-old girl, show continuity with waking conceptions and concerns in relation to major people and interests in the dreamers’ lives, but not very often with daily “experience” or behavior. They also provide the best hope for understanding unusual or metaphoric elements. The value of dream journals is enhanced by comparing findings from them with normative group findings. Moreover, they can be studied on DreamBank.net with word and phrase searches that provide instantaneous results and consistency information, as well as effect sizes and p values in comparison with control samples.
Tracey Kahan, PhD (USA) is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Sleep Cognition Lab at Santa Clara University. Dr. Kahan’s research investigates the interplay of consciousness, cognition, and emotion across the sleep-wake cycle. Her current work emphasizes dreaming as a set of cognitive skills which can be developed through intention, attention, and practice. The potential benefits of developing cognitive expertise in dreaming include the ability to carry over the self-expansive experiences of dreaming into waking.
Title: Predictors of Metacognition in Dreaming and Waking: Another Look
Summary: Prior research shows stable similarities and differences in metacognitive skills reported for experiences sampled from the sleep (dreaming) and wake states. This presentation describes findings on factors that predict metacognition in dreaming and waking, and introduces some provocative patterns regarding cross-state differences in the relationship between emotion and metacognition.
Abstract: Metacognition is the monitoring and control of one's cognitive processes (Nelson & Narens, 1994; Shimamura, 2008). Prior research shows stable similarities and differences in metacognitive skills reported for experiences sampled from dreaming and waking (see Kahan & LaBerge, 2011, for a review). The present study investigates whether 'state' or 'trait' factors best predict metacognition in dreaming and waking. In a two-week, home-based study, 170 undergraduates (112 females) provided written reports of two morning-awakening dreams and two waking experiences, following the systematic experience-sampling protocol utilized in prior studies (e.g., Kahan, LaBerge, Levitan, & Zimbardo, 1997; Kahan & LaBerge, 2000; 2011). For each experience sample, participants also used two psychometrically validated questionnaires, the MACE (Kahan & Sullivan, 2012) and the SERS (Kahan & Claudatos, 2016) to rate the metacognitive, affective, cognitive, and sensory features of the reported experience ['state variables']. During the initial orientation, participants also completed measures of trait mindfulness, self-consciousness, and decentering ['trait variables'].
Multiple regression analyses revealed that the measured 'state' variables were much stronger predictors of metacognitive skills in both waking and dreaming than were the measured 'trait' variables. The strongest predictors of participants' ratings of metacognitive skills in dreaming were their ratings of those same skills in waking; similarly, ratings of metacognitive skills in waking were most strongly predicted by ratings of metacognitive skills in dreaming. Thus, clear cross-state continuities were observed between metacognitive skills in dreaming and waking, consistent with past research (Kahan & LaBerge, 1994; 2011; Wolman & Kozmová, 2007). These findings suggest that whereas certain wake-state cognitive style and personality variables are associated with content features of dreams (e.g., Barrett & McNamara, 2007; Blagrove & Hartnell, 2000; Malinowski, 2015), cognitive style variables may not be strong predictors of the cognitive or metacognitive process features of experiences sampled from the dreaming or waking state, at least among novice dreamers (also see Bulkeley & Kahan, 2008; Kahan, 2012).
A novel and provocative pattern in the present study was that negative emotion in dreaming was among the significant predictors of self-regulation and monitoring internal experience in dreaming, whereas positive emotion in dreaming was a significant predictor of monitoring the external environment in both dreaming and waking. Ratings of emotion in waking were not predictive of metacognitive skills in either waking or dreaming. Taken together, these findings invite lively discussion given recent proposals that a core function of dreaming is the processing of negative emotion (Malinowski & Horton, 2015), even while dreaming experience is clearly characterized by both negative and positive emotion (Kahan & Claudatos, 2016; Sikka, Valli, Verta, & Revonsuo, 2014; Thomas, Pollak, & Kahan, 2015).
Michael Schredl, PhD (Germany), has been working in the sleep laboratory of the CentralInstitute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany since 1990. His publications cover various topics such as dream recall, dream content analysis, nightmares, sleep disorders, and sleep physiology. He is the editor of the online journal International Journal of Dream Research.
Title: Can We Learn Something About Dreaming by Studying Gender Differences?
Summary: Gender differences in dreaming have been studied widely. The current presentation reviews these findings regarding dream recall, nightmare frequency, interest in dreams, and dream content. The focus will be whether there are variables that might help to explain those gender differences, e.g. gender-specific dream socialization or neuroticism.
Abstract: Studying gender differences is a major topic in academic psychology; including sometimes heated controversies and discussion. In the last decades of dream research, considerable number of studies addressed gender differences in dream recall, nightmare frequency, attitude towards dreams, and dream content. From a theoretical viewpoint, the question arises whether studying gender differences can tell something about underlying mechanisms, e.g., variables that might explain these gender differences. Recent meta-analyses have shown that there is a substantial gender difference in dream recall frequency and nightmare frequency with women reporting higher dream recall and nightmare frequency. For other dream variables like the frequency of sharing dreams or interest in dreams gender differences have been demonstrated. The research so far identified several variables that might help to explain these gender differences. Dream recall frequency and nightmare frequency was related to sex role orientation. However, the gender difference could not be explained fully by sex role orientation. Regarding nightmare frequency, two factors affected the gender difference in nightmare frequency: neuroticism and overall dream recall frequency. Lastly, gender-specific dream socialization might explain marked gender difference for adolescents and young adults in view of a small gender difference for children younger than 10 yrs. The gender differences in dream content, e.g., more physical aggression and sexuality in men’s dreams, reflect gender differences in waking life, i.e., these findings support the continuity hypothesis of dreaming. Interestingly, the gender differences in human aggressors in dreams (more males) also might reflect gender differences in waking life as violent crimes are much more often committed by men compared to women. To summarize, gender differences in dreaming can be linked to other factors but this research area is still in its infancy, it would be interesting, for example, to study brain structures and activation patterns, especially the limbic system, in order to test whether the gender difference in nightmare frequency might be – at least to some extend – explained by gender-specific information processing in the brain.
Sophie Schwartz, PhD (Switzerland) is a professor in Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Switzerland. She trained as a biologist and psychologist. She investigates the neural bases of dreaming, and the role of sleep in learning, affect regulation, and brain plasticity. Her research team uses brain imaging methods to assess brain functions in healthy volunteers, and in neurological and psychiatric patients.
Title: Processing Emotionally-Relevant Information in Sleep and Dreams
Summary: I will show that the affective value associated with some recent memories favors the spontaneous replay of these specific memory episodes during sleep. I will then provide evidence for the notion that the processing of emotionally-relevant information during sleep and dreaming also relates to individual emotional reactivity during wakefulness.
Abstract: Neuroimaging, neurophysiological, and clinical studies indicate that emotional and reward networks are activated during sleep. In my presentation, I will suggest that the activation of those brain circuits during sleep and dreaming prioritizes the reprocessing of emotional or rewarded information [1,2]. First, I will report data showing that, both in rodents and in humans, the consolidation of motivationally-relevant information benefits from sleep, particularly through oscillatory brain activity (sleep spindles and slow-waves) [3-5]. I will describe a recent study in which we used functional MRI (fMRI) and EEG to demonstrate that post-learning sleep favors the selectivity of long-term consolidation by retaining the most important (i.e., rewarded) memories . These effects were mediated by sleep spindles, as well as by an increased functional interplay between dopaminergic reward regions, the prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus. In another study, we further tested the hypothesis that the motivational relevance of a waking experience (here, winning a game) influences subsequent brain activity during sleep as measured by simultaneous EEG-fMRI. We used advanced neural decoding methods and found that patterns of brain activity associated with the game that led to a successful outcome had a higher probability of re-emerging during slow-wave sleep. Both studies suggest that the replay of information yielding positive outcomes promotes a value- based stratification of long-term memory stores. Second, I will discuss the implications of these neuroimaging studies for our understanding of the neural bases of dreaming. I will suggest that emotional and reward processing during dreaming may explain its contribution to waking cognitive and emotional processes, including emotion regulation and performance improvement. In particular, I will show how individual differences in emotional brain reactivity during wakefulness relates to specific emotions experienced in dreams. Collectively, these new data indicate that a healthy emotional balance entails a form of neural reverberation during sleep, which influences the content of our dreams, and helps our brains learn from our daily failures and accomplishments.
Robert Stickgold, PhD (USA) is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has over 100 scientific publications, including papers in Science and Nature, on the nature and function of sleep and dreams, with an emphasis on their role in memory consolidation and integration and how defects in these processes contribute to psychiatric disorders. His work is funded by NIMH.
Title: The Induction of Specific Dream Content
Summary: Specific dream content can be induced by training subjects on a variety of tasks in the hours prior to sleep onset. But it can also be induced by sensory stimulation or transcranial direct current stimulation during sleep. The implications of these findings for the function of dreaming will be discussed.
Abstract: It is generally accepted that dream content is based on sensory stimuli and stored memories, and is often triggered by memories of recent events, although the content also can bear clear relationship to events that occurred years or even decades earlies. Studies in the previous century reported reliable dream incorporation of sensory stimuli applied during sleep, including sprays of water, applications of mildly painful stimuli, and vestibular stimulation. In addition, the application of transcranial direct current electrical stimulation (TDCS) over motor cortex during REM sleep leads to increased motor imagery, and, specifically, more “athletic” motor imagery. More recently, studies have demonstrated the experimental induction of dream content through the training of subjects on various learning task, ranging from relatively simple procedural motor sequence tasks to declarative spatial memory maze tasks to complex visuomotor strategy games. The nature of the dream incorporation varied dramatically from study to study, and in at least one study, from condition to condition. When sensory stimuli or TDCS were applied during REM, the incorporation was usually clear, but only sensorially related to the stimulus. Thus a spray of water might lead to a thunderstorm appearing in dream content, and a pressure cuff on one leg might lead to the appearance of a man caught under a fallen horse. These studies showed no preferred incorporation of lateralized stimuli into dream content on the same side of the body. When incorporation was investigated after awakening subjects from sleep onset following training on a task in prior wake, incorporation could be quite similar to the training experience. Thus, subjects trained on the computer game Tetris saw images of Tetris pieces falling and rotating, while subjects trained on the arcade game Alpine Racer saw themselves crashing into identifiable portions of the skiing trail. In contrast, subjects learning the visual maze task never reported seeing the game maze, instead having more conceptually related images, similar to those seen after sensory stimulation during REM. Similarly, incorporation in the Alpine Racer task would sometimes be at this conceptual level as well. These findings suggest that activation of sensory images during sleep, through application of external sensory stimuli or TDCS, tends to result in their incorporation into dreams in a manner that involves the category of sensory stimulation but not the specific sensory stimuli, while the spontaneous reactivation of memories of recent task training during sleep can lead to incorporation that includes specific sensory stimuli from the task or that only includes the broader conceptual category of the learning task. Taken as a whole, this suggests that dream construction can be driven both by bottom-up (sensory) or top- down (conceptual) incorporation from internally and externally triggered cortical activation patterns.
Erin Wamsley, PhD (USA) is Director of the Furman University Sleep Laboratory and Assistant Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience. Wamsley and her research group study how the brain processes memories during sleep and resting wakefulness, and the relationship of sleep-dependent memory processing to dream experiences.
Title: Memory Consolidation in Dreams and Waking Thought
Summary: On a cellular level, recent experiences are spontaneously “reactivated” in the brain during both sleep and resting wakefulness. Does our conscious experience reflect this process? This talk will focus on evidence that both dreaming and waking thought are influenced by the reactivation and consolidation of memory.
Abstract: Following learning, new memories are gradually consolidated into a more permanent form of long-term storage. This process is thought to occur during “offline” periods that allow memory networks to be repeatedly reactivated in the absence of new sensory input. Sleep, for example, appears to provide an optimal state for consolidation to occur. Could dreams be a reflection of this memory processing during sleep? Here, we will review evidence that indeed suggests dream content is related to memory consolidation. Dreaming about a learning task, for example, is associated with improved memory following sleep. But at the same time, the relationship between conscious experience and memory processing may not be unique to sleep. Emerging evidence suggests that some forms of consolidation may also occur during resting wakefulness, and that the content of waking thought is also predictive of subsequent memory performance. Ultimately, conscious experience during both sleep and wakefulness likely reflects a variety of concomitant brain processes, including those underlying memory consolidation. These observations suggest a new dimension of similarity between dreaming and waking cognition, and show us how examining conscious experience can provide a unique window into the memory consolidation process across both sleep and wakefulness. As an example, our ongoing studies are examining how dreams and daydreams combine salient elements of recent waking experience with related remote and semantic memories.
Jennifer M. Windt, PhD (Australia) is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research centers on philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science, especially on the topics of dreaming, sleep, and self-consciousness. She is the author of Dreaming (published in 2015 with MIT Press) and edited, with Thomas Metzinger, Open MIND, freely available at open-mind.net.
Title: The Philosophy of Sleep & Dreaming: Questions and Future Perspectives
Summary: This talk provides an introduction to some of the most important philosophical questions on sleep and dreaming. We will look at some historical examples, but our main focus will be on how contemporary philosophy of mind intersects with ongoing debates in sleep and dream research, cognitive science, and consciousness studies.
Abstract: This talk gives an introduction to some of the big questions in the philosophy of sleep and dreaming, along with possible ways of addressing them. The point is not so much to provide definitive answers — in most cases, we won’t — but to open up new ways of thinking about these questions in a research-generating way. What are dreams? In the 20th century, the philosophical debate centered on whether dreams are experiences at all. In this context, experience is understood in a technical sense, referring to phenomenal consciousness, or states that have qualitative character or a particular subjective feel. The alternative is to claim that dreams don’t exist: dream recall is deceptive, and during sleep, nothing is in fact experienced.
This debate has now been resolved in favor of dream experience; but on its own, this is not very informative. Simulation views, on which there is increasing agreement, now promise to offer a unified account. In these views, dreaming is characterized by its structure: dreaming involves the experience of a world centered on a self. What is the difference between dreaming and wakefulness? In simulation views, dreaming and waking consciousness share the same structural organization. But that does not mean that the experiences are exactly the same in all respects. How does experience change as we move from wakefulness into sleep and dreams?
How do I know I am not dreaming right now? It is one thing to ask about the differences between dreaming and waking — but another to ask how I can tell the difference. Dream skepticism asks if I can ever really be sure that I am awake. Might lucid dreaming show that dream deception is not inevitable? What does dreaming reveal about the self? Dreams almost always involve a self — but important aspects of self-experience are typically missing in dreams. In some dreams, self-experience can even take a minimal form. Analyzing changes in self-experience across wakefulness, dreaming, and lucid dreaming may shed light on the minimal conditions that need to be fulfilled to have the experience of being a self.
Does consciousness disappear in dreamless sleep? A default assumption in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience is that consciousness can be defined contrastively, as that which disappears in deep, dreamless sleep. But couldn’t there be forms of experience in sleep that lack the self-in-a- world structure of dreaming? The newest development in the philosophy of sleep and dreaming is the reappearance of dreamless sleep as a topic of interest — associated with the attempt to confront classical Indian debates with cognitive science.
Why do we dream? Assuming simulation views are correct, does this tell us anything about the function of dreaming? Why could it be advantageous, from an evolutionary perspective, to simulate the experience of being a self in a world in sleep? A different but related question asks why we dream the way we do. Even if dreams don’t have any specific function, this question could still reveal important insights about the nature of conscious experience.
Antonio Zadra, PhD (Canada) is Professor of Psychology at the Université de Montréal, Director of the university’s Dream Laboratory, and past member of the IASD Board of Directors.His research interests include recurrent dreams, nightmares, somnambulism, psychological correlates of dream content, and the assessment and treatment of dream-relateddisorders.
Title: Discoveries and challenges in the study of nightmares
Summary: This presentation will review recent advances in the study of nightmares while highlighting key challenges faced by clinicians and researchers working within this field. Areas covered will include the prevalence and content of nightmares as well as their correlates and treatment.
Abstract: Nightmares have always been a source of fascination. The occurrence of these intensely negative and often impactful dreams were observed by Hippocrates, discussed by Plato, and figure in various ancient texts, including the Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 BC), one of the earliest work of literature. Three key questions about nightmares have long interested clinicians and researchers alike: a) Why do people experience nightmares? b) Are they related to specific personalities or problems in the dreamer’s waking life? c) How can we treat them? Using these three main lines of inquiry as anchors, this presentation will explore recent developments in our understanding of nightmares and other forms of dysphoric dreaming. Specifically, we will examine what is currently known about the psychological correlates of nightmares, their prevalence in various populations (including gender differences), their contents, and various approaches to their treatment. Conceptual and methodological challenges in the study of nightmares within each of these areas will also be examined and the pros and cons of various approaches discussed. Although this presentation will focus on research findings obtained in adult populations, issues related to the assessment and treatment of nightmares in children will also be covered.