Simor P1, Csóka Sz 2, Bódizs R.3 Dreaming and Affective Regulation: preliminary findings and a neurocognitive framework

II.DuCog Conference on Cognitive Science, Learning and Perception, may 6-9, 2010, Dubrovnik.

1.Budapest Univ. Techn. Economics, Department of Cognitive Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
2.Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Semmelweis University Budapest, Hungary Budapest, Hungary
3.Cognitive Science Research Group, HAS-Budapest Technical University, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
*Correspondence: Peter Simor, Budapest Univ. Techn. Economics, Department of Cognitive Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.

Different lines of research suggest that REM sleep and dreaming involves the intense functioning of an emotional frontolimbic network facilitating off-line emotional information processing (Walker, 2009). Moreover this emotional processing may facilitate the regulation of affective states, by restructuring emotional memories into broader cortical networks. In accordance with Levin and Nielsen’s model (2007) we suggest that the emotional regulation in dreaming is served by the formation of a narrative structure, creating new, adaptive contexts for the emotional memories. Frequent nightmares may be viewed as the failure of this process, therefore investigating dream disturbances of different populations can foster our understanding of the dysfunctional affect regulation in sleep. In our preliminary studies we investigated the dream disturbances in Borderline Personality Disorder – characterized by fronto-limbic dysfunctions – and found that dream disturbances were linked to the severity of emotional dysregulation, and negatively correlated with waking levels of fantasy. In our second study we investigated the long lasting effects of early maternal separation on dream affect, and found a significant association between early (before 1 year of age) maternal separation and negative dream affect. Our results and future directions are discussed within a neurocognitive framework.