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Curr Biol. 2010 Dec 7;20(23):R1010-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.045.

Dreaming and offline memory processing.

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Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, 330 Brookline Avenue, E/FD861, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The activities of the mind and brain never cease. Although many of our waking hours are spent processing sensory input and executing behavioral responses, moments of unoccupied rest free us to wander through thoughts of the past and future, create daydreams, and imagine fictitious scenarios. During sleep, when attention to sensory input is at a minimum, the mind continues to process information, using memory fragments to create the images, thoughts, and narratives that we commonly call 'dreaming'. Far from being a random or meaningless distraction, spontaneous cognition during states of sleep and resting wakefulness appears to serve important functions related to processing past memories and planning for the future. From single-cell recordings in rodents to behavioral studies in humans, recent studies in the neurosciences suggest a new conception of dreaming as part of a continuum of adaptive cognitive processing occurring across the full range of mind/brain states.

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