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Nightmares Help Prepare People Deal with Difficult Situations in Real Life, Says Study

The study, which was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, helped researchers identify how nightmares light up the brain in real time.

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Updated:November 30, 2019, 2:59 PM IST
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Nightmares Help Prepare People Deal with Difficult Situations in Real Life, Says Study
Sleep Intern

How many times have you woken up suddenly at night, all paranoid and sweaty after watching an especially scary dream? Do you fervently wish you never had nightmares again? Think again. A new study now finds that nightmares help the brain prepare to handle stressful situations.

A US government-funded study saw researchers from Switzerland and the US subject 18 people to an experiment where they were fitted with electrodes to monitor their brain activity at night. The volunteers were woken multiple times and were made to answer the question, "Did you dream? And, if so, did you feel scared?" reported Daily Mail.

The study, which was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, helped researchers identify how nightmares light up the brain in real time. According to the report, researchers found a pattern. They said that during nightmares, they saw an increased activity in regions of the brain that control emotions.

The study authors conducted a second experiment where they gave 89 people a dream diary to fill out for a week. At the end, each person was given an MRI scan, while they were shown negative and scary images.

Speaking about the same, one of the lead authors, Lampros Perogamvro said that they were particularly interested in fear and what areas of the brain are activated when one is having bad dreams.

He further said that by analysing brain activity based on a person's responses, they found two regions that showed that showed fear during a dream -- insula and cingulate cortex.

According to him, the insula unleashes fear response in times of danger while the cingulate cortex controls it.

The report added that the second study helped understand the psychological or physiolohgical impact nightmares had on brains. Study authors came to the conclusion, that, to an extent, nightmares were actually beneficial, and helped steel people from stressful experiences.

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