Tweaking Dreams

Research Project

The Project

Background

Sleep and wakefulness have traditionally been regarded as two mutually exclusive states characterized by differences in consciousness and responsiveness to the environment. However, the last two decades of research have demonstrated that sleep is actually a locally regulated phenomenon and that cortical islands of sleep- and wake-like activity can often coexist across distinct brain areas. Intriguingly, this mosaic of activity is also directly related to the presence and content of mental activity during sleep. In line with this, many sleep disorders, including insomnia and arousal disorders, are associated with significant local alterations in the balance between wake- and sleep-like activity. In spite of these considerations, the classical view of sleep as a uniform global state is still dominant in both basic and clinical research. Moreover, it remains unclear whether the occurrence of local wake-like activity is related to specific physiological functions of sleep.

Our aim

The objective of this project is to progress towards a deep understanding of the mechanisms that regulate sleep at a local level through the exploitation of known properties of the thalamocortical system. At the core of the proposal is the idea that particular sensory-stimulation protocols may allow to directly modulate sleep intensity in a local, region-specific manner. Such approaches could be used to non-invasively perturbate regional sleep-related brain activity, thus allowing to investigate the causal consequences on sleep mentation, subjective sleep quality and sleep-related functions, including learning and memory. Of note, the same approaches could also find application in counteracting alterations of local sleep regulation in pathological conditions.

Knowledge gathered within the project could yield potential breakthroughs in numerous key applications of tremendous clinical, social and economic interest including treatment of sleep disorders and prevention of sleepiness-related accidents.

Collaborations and support

The project is funded by an ERC Starting Grant (Grant Number 948891). Click HERE to be redirected to the description of the project on the CORDIS website.

Preliminary results

Publications

Elce V, Handjaras G, Bernardi G.  The Language of Dreams: Application of Linguistics-Based Approaches for the Automated Analysis of Dream Experiences. Clocks & Sleep, 2021 [10.3390/clockssleep3030035]

Picard-Deland C, Bernardi G, Genzel L, Dresler M, Schoch SF. Memory reactivations during sleep: a neural basis of dream experiences? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2023 [10.1016/j.tics.2023.02.006]

Oral presentations

Michalak A. The spectrum of conscious experiences during NREM sleep: there is more than what meets the eye. WorldSleep 2023. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 24, 2023

Bernardi G. .Sensory processing during sleep and dreams. ANT Neuromeeting 2023. Berlin, Germany, November 2, 2023

Abstracts & Posters

Michalak A, Marzoli D, Bergamo D, Pietrogiacomi F, Elce V, Pedreschi B, De Cuntis I, Avvenuti G, Ricciardi E, Bernardi G. The spectrum of conscious experiences during NREM sleep: there is more than what meets the eye. WorldSleep 2023. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 20-25, 2023

Marzoli D,  Michalak A, Bergamo D, Pietrogiacomi F, Elce V, Pedreschi B, De Cuntis I, Avvenuti G, Ricciardi E, Bernardi G. Changes in brain activity upon stimulus-induced awakening predict subsequent dream recall. WorldSleep 2023. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 20-25, 2023

Collaborate with us

For information regarding possible scientific collaborations on the project or to participate as volunteers, please contact: