Dreamed movement elicits activation in the sensorimotor cortex

Curr Biol. 2011 Nov 8;21(21):1833-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.09.029. Epub 2011 Oct 27.


Since the discovery of the close association between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dreaming, much effort has been devoted to link physiological signatures of REM sleep to the contents of associated dreams [1-4]. Due to the impossibility of experimentally controlling spontaneous dream activity, however, a direct demonstration of dream contents by neuroimaging methods is lacking. By combining brain imaging with polysomnography and exploiting the state of "lucid dreaming," we show here that a predefined motor task performed during dreaming elicits neuronal activation in the sensorimotor cortex. In lucid dreams, the subject is aware of the dreaming state and capable of performing predefined actions while all standard polysomnographic criteria of REM sleep are fulfilled [5, 6]. Using eye signals as temporal markers, neural activity measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was related to dreamed hand movements during lucid REM sleep. Though preliminary, we provide first evidence that specific contents of REM-associated dreaming can be visualized by neuroimaging.

MeSH terms

  • Awareness*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dreams*
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Neuroimaging
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep, REM
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Young Adult