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Conscious Cogn. 2011 Dec;20(4):1425-32. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2011.05.015. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

Walking dreams in congenital and acquired paraplegia.

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  • 1Sleep Disorders Unit, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, France.


To test if dreams contain remote or never-experienced motor skills, we collected during 6 weeks dream reports from 15 paraplegics and 15 healthy subjects. In 9/10 subjects with spinal cord injury and in 5/5 with congenital paraplegia, voluntary leg movements were reported during dream, including feelings of walking (46%), running (8.6%), dancing (8%), standing up (6.3%), bicycling (6.3%), and practicing sports (skiing, playing basketball, swimming). Paraplegia patients experienced walking dreams (38.2%) just as often as controls (28.7%). There was no correlation between the frequency of walking dreams and the duration of paraplegia. In contrast, patients were rarely paraplegic in dreams. Subjects who had never walked or stopped walking 4-64 years prior to this study still experience walking in their dreams, suggesting that a cerebral walking program, either genetic or more probably developed via mirror neurons (activated when observing others performing an action) is reactivated during sleep.

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