Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2018 Dec 26;14(1):19.
doi: 10.1186/s12993-018-0151-x.

Narcolepsy and Emotional Experience: A Review of the Literature

Free PMC article

Narcolepsy and Emotional Experience: A Review of the Literature

C Schiappa et al. Behav Brain Funct. .
Free PMC article


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. This disease affects significantly the overall patient functioning, interfering with social, work, and affective life. Some symptoms of narcolepsy depend on emotional stimuli; for instance, cataplectic attacks can be triggered by emotional inputs such as laughing, joking, a pleasant surprise, and also anger. Neurophysiological and neurochemical findings suggest the involvement of emotional brain circuits in the physiopathology of cataplexy, which seems to depending on the dysfunctional interplay between the hypothalamus and the amygdala associated with an alteration of hypocretin levels. Furthermore, behavioral studies suggest an impairment of emotions processing in narcolepsy-cataplexy (NC), like a probable coping strategy to avoid or reduce the frequency of cataplexy attacks. Consistently, NC patients seem to use coping strategies even during their sleep, avoiding unpleasant mental sleep activity through lucid dreaming. Interestingly, NC patients, even during sleep, have a different emotional experience than healthy subjects, with more vivid, bizarre, and frightening dreams. Notwithstanding this evidence, the relationship between emotion and narcolepsy is poorly investigated. This review aims to provide a synthesis of behavioral, neurophysiological, and neurochemical evidence to discuss the complex relationship between NC and emotional experience and to direct future research.

Keywords: Cataplexy; Dreaming; Emotions; Narcolepsy; REM sleep.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 2 articles


    1. Vogel GW. Studies in the psychophysiology of dreams III. The dream of narcolepsy. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1960;3:421–425. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1960.01710040091011. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Dement WC, Rechtschaffen A, Gulevich G. The nature of the narcoleptic sleep attack. Neurology. 1966;16:18–33. doi: 10.1212/WNL.16.1.18. - DOI - PubMed
    1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine . International classification of sleep disorders. 3. Darien: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014.
    1. Dauvilliers Y, Arnulf I, Mignot E. Narcolepsy with cataplexy. Lancet. 2007;369(9560):499–511. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60237-2. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Overeem S, Mignot E, van Dijk JG, Lammers GJ. Narcolepsy: clinical features, new pathophysiologic insights, and future perspectives. J Clin Neurophysiol. 2001;18(2):78–105. doi: 10.1097/00004691-200103000-00002. - DOI - PubMed