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Where do angry dreams come from? Scientists may have found the answer

A new study from the Society for Neuroscience has pinpointed a pattern of brain activity associated with anger during dreams. The research may ultimately help experts understand the neural foundation of the emotional content involved in nightmares, which may also be the basis for various mental and sleep disorders.

Little is known about the brain mechanisms which underlie the emotions that are experienced during dreams. A team of researchers led by Pilleriin Sikka of the University of Turku has discovered one such mechanism that is tied to emotional response during both times of sleep and wakefulness.

The investigation was focused on the electroencephalography recordings from participants during a two-night sleep study. After the individuals had experienced five-minute bouts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, they were awakened and asked to describe their dreams and rate the various emotions that were involved.

During evening wakefulness and also during REM sleep, the researchers found that individuals who displayed greater alpha-band brain activity in the right frontal cortex experienced more anger in their dreams. This same neural activity, which is known as frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA), has also been linked to anger during wakefulness.

The findings indicate that FAA may be a universal representation of emotion regulation, which is the ability to respond to life experiences with a range of emotions.

The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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