positive and negative emotionsWe all expect only good things to happen in the new year, and we all want to forget all negative and bad memories from the last year. It turned out that dreaming can be a great tool to do so! A group of scientists at the University of California carried out a series of experiments and found out that dreaming can assist us in processing and lowering negative effects and emotions from our bad experiences. It is very hard for most people to deal with traumatic experiences and bad memories, and for many of us these types of emotions can produce long-term stresses and various psychological disturbances.

The experiments were targeted on figuring out how human brain can deal with unpleasant and traumatic memories during sleep. For that, the experts used brain scans of 35 volunteers who agreed to participate in the research. The first group of the participants were shown a series of highly emotional images, and then allowed to take a nap between the two brain scanning sessions. The other group was simply scanned before and several hours after watching the images, without taking a nap in between. Those who had a chance for sleeping have demonstrated considerably less brain activity linked to negative emotions.

sleepingTherefore, taking a nap and seeing dreams is linked to less activities in the amygdala, a part of human brain known for being involved in producing emotions. In addition, sleeping caused more activities in the prefrontal cortex, another brain area which is involved in rational thinking. To support these findings, the participants were interviewed, and those who had no opportunity to take a nap reported about being more distressed and emotionally disturbed by the seen images than those participants who had a chance to have a good sleep.

The authors of the study believe that chemical processes that occur in human brain during so called REM sleep (or a part of our sleep when we dream) is responsible for the displayed emotional relief and plays a role in processing bad memories and negative emotions. Dr Matthew Walker, one of the authors of the study, comments on the findings as the following: “By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neurochemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength. We feel better about them, we feel we can cope.” Read more about this interesting study in the recent issue of the journal Current Biology.

Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.

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