Tag Archives: dream

Want to remember your dreams? Try taking Vitamin B6, new study suggests

A new study from Adelaide researchers in Australia concludes that taking vitamin B6 could help people to recall their dreams.

It all started when Dr. Denholm Aspy, from the University’s School of Psychology, took a B6 supplement right before going to sleep.

“I actually took a B vitamin supplement one night and then noticed that I had really vivid lucid dreams the next night. I wasn’t sure why this was, but then my co-author Natasha Madden suggested that the B6 I took before bed might be the cause,” he told ZME Science.

After looking into the literature on this, he learned that despite anecdotal evidence, there was a single study which studied the association — but that study had numerous limitations, both in terms of sample size (only 12 participants) and in terms of measuring general dream recall rates. So he devised a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, where participants took 240mg of vitamin B6 immediately before bed.

Prior to the study, most participants rarely if ever remembered their dreams, but there was significant progress by the end of the study.

“It seems as time went on my dreams were clearer and clearer and easier to remember. I also did not lose fragments as the day went on,” said one of the participants after completing the study.

According to another participant of the study, “My dreams were more real, I couldn’t wait to go to bed and dream!”

In an email to ZME Science, Dr. Aspy says he hasn’t really looked at other supplements’ effect on dreaming, but he plans on combining B6 and possibly some other substances with lucid dreaming techniques to see if this can enhance the overall lucid dreaming success rate.

The good thing for people who want to remember their dreams is that Vitamin B6 occurs naturally in a large number of foods, including whole grain cereals, legumes, fruits (such as banana and avocado), vegetables (such as spinach and potato), milk, cheese, eggs, red meat, liver, and fish. However, more research is needed before the effects of the vitamin can be thoroughly understood.

“Further research is needed to investigate whether the effects of vitamin B6 vary according to how much is obtained from the diet. If vitamin B6 is only effective for people with low dietary intake, its effects on dreaming may diminish with prolonged supplementation,” says Dr Aspy.

Also, while the results were quite robust and the sample size was still varied, the study still has its limitations. Discussing this with ZME Science, Aspy explains:

“The sample in my study is quite diverse, but there are some limitation to how far we can generalise the findings. For one thing, the age range was restricted to people between 18 and 40 years old. This was done to replicate the exclusion criteria used in the older 2002 study. Another thing is that people with various health conditions were asked not to participate, so we can’t say for sure whether B6 would have the same effect in clinical populations. I suspect it might be even more effective for people deficient in B6, but possibly contraindicated in people with certain disorders — especially REM sleep disorder and in people taking medications that might interact with high dose B6 supplements.”

Lucid dreams, dreams in which the dreamer knows that they are dreaming while the dream is still happening, are an interesting and yet understudied field. Aside from being potentially fun and enticing, research suggests that people can use lucid dreams to improve waking life motor skills by practicing them in lucid dreams. Some studies also suggest that using dreams could be used to treat nightmares and other traumatic experiences. Although knowledge and ideas about lucid dreaming have existed for centuries, it wasn’t properly studied until the mid to late 1970s. Recently, the evidence seems to be piling up that lucid dreaming does have significant potential health benefits, and that it is a skill that can be learned and practiced.

Journal Reference: Denholm J. Aspy, Natasha A. Madden, and Paul Delfabbro. “Effects of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) and a B Complex Preparation on Dreaming and Sleep.” Perceptual and Motor Skills,

If you’d like to find out more about Dr. Aspy’s work, learn more about lucid dreaming and even workshops, check out his website: www.luciddreamingaustralia.com

Rats dream of getting to a brighter future

It’s not just us humans that dream of a better future – rats do too. When rats rest, their brains imagine a favorable future such as a tasty treat, a new study by UCL researchers found.

Image via Like Cool.

Researchers wanted to see what happens in the rats’ brain as they sleep, so they first monitored them as they looked at some delicious but inaccessible food. They then monitored them as they rested, and ultimately, as they finally received the desired food. They then did the same thing as the rats were sleeping, and found that their brains were mimicking walking to and from the desired food.

“During exploration, mammals rapidly form a map of the environment in their hippocampus,” says senior author Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Experimental Psychology). “During sleep or rest, the hippocampus replays journeys through this map which may help strengthen the memory. It has been speculated that such replay might form the content of dreams. Whether or not rats experience this brain activity as dreams is still unclear, as we would need to ask them to be sure! Our new results show that during rest the hippocampus also constructs fragments of a future yet to happen. Because the rat and human hippocampus are similar, this may explain why patients with damage to their hippocampus struggle to imagine future events.”

The study not only revealed an amazing fact about rats, but could also help humans with damage to the hippocampus who can’t imagine the future. The hippocampus is a major component of the brains of humans and other vertebrates which plays a major role in memory and spatial navigation. But there might be more to the hippocampus than what we currently believe.

“What’s really interesting is that the hippocampus is normally thought of as being important for memory, with place cells storing details about locations you’ve visited,” explains co-lead author Dr Freyja Ólafsdóttir (UCL Biosciences). “What’s surprising here is that we see the hippocampus planning for the future, actually rehearsing totally novel journeys that the animals need to take in order to reach the food.”

Their results indicate that the hippocampus may plan routes that have not yet happened – a dream route that would lead them to the food. This is also an indication that thinking about the future is not restricted to humans – something which biologists thought for a long time.

“What we don’t know at the moment is what these neural simulations are actually for,” says co-lead author Dr Caswell Barry (UCL Biosciences). “It seems possible this process is a way of evaluating the available options to determine which is the most likely to end in reward, thinking it through if you like. We don’t know that for sure though and something we’d like to do in the future is try to establish a link between this apparent planning and what the animals do next.”

 

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Fantasy and Reality – how does the brain tell the difference?

Some people, like history’s greatest artists or scientists, have a fantastic imagination that long transcends reality. Others have this line completely blurred and can’t make sense of what’s real or not. For most of us, however, fantasy and reality are clearly separated in our mental psyche. Now, a team of neuroscientists have explored the neural pathways that move information pertaining to both worlds; one exclusively in our heads, the other extrinsic (with added mental filters, of course). Their findings suggest that the signal flow of information when we imagine things is in exact reverse to the one when we experience the outside world.

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Credit: Fan Pop

“A really important problem in brain research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?” says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate.”

Van Veen and colleagues are trying to find out what happens in the brain when we sleep and dream, but also how the brain encodes short-term memory. The team strapped sensors on the scalps of participants in order to measure their brain activity. This process, called electroencephalography, allows the researchers to distinguish between various neural networks and then associate them to whatever the participant was doing or was experiencing at the time.

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In order to view a set of target neural circuits, the researchers looked at how signals flashed through the brain of participants when they were fantasizing or when they were subjected to external stimuli. With the EEG on, a short movie was played (external input), then the participants were asked to replay the same movie in their heads as best as they could. Others were asked to imagine traveling on a magic bicycle — focusing on the details of shapes, colors and textures — before watching a short video of silent nature scenes.

Using an algorithm that set aside noise and allowed the researchers to distinguish signal pathways, the team found that when people would imagine anything there was an increase in the flow of information from the parietal lobe of the brain to the occipital lobe (from a higher-order region to a lower-order one). When visualizing information, the signal traveled in reverse – visual information taken in by the eyes tends to flow from the occipital lobe — which makes up much of the brain’s visual cortex — “up” to the parietal lobe.

“There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional, that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else,” says Van Veen. “I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.”

Findings were reported in the journal NeuroImage.