Skip to main content

The analogy between dreams and the ancient art of memory is tempting but superficial

  • Nikolai Axmacher (a1) (a2) and Juergen Fell (a1)

Although the analogy between dreams and ancient mnemotechniques is tempting because they share several phenomenological characteristics, this analogy is superficial at a closer look. Unlike mneomotechnically encoded material, rapid eye movement (REM) dreams are inherently difficult to remember, do not usually allow conscious subsequent retrieval of all interconnected elements, and have been found to support subsequent episodic memory in only rare cases.

Hide All
Bartlett F. C. (1932) Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge University Press.
Cipolli C., Fagioli I., Mazzetti M. & Tuozzi G. (2005) Consolidation effect of the processing of declarative knowledge during human sleep: Evidence from long-term retention of interrelated contents of mental sleep experiences. Brain Research Bulletin 65:97104.
Diekelmann S. & Born J. (2010) The memory function of sleep. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11:114–26.
Fell J., Staedtgen M., Burr W., Kockelmann E., Helmstaedter C., Schaller C., Elger C. E. & Fernández G. (2003) Rhinal-hippocampal EEG coherence is reduced during human sleep. European Journal of Neuroscience 18:1711–16.
Fiss H., Kremer E. & Lichtman J. (1977) The mnemonic function of dreaming. Sleep Research 6:122–37.
Hobson J. A., Pace-Schott E. F. & Stickgold R. (2000) Dreaming and the brain: Toward a cognitive neuroscience of conscious states. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23(6):793842; discussion 904–1121.
Nishida M., Pearsall J., Buckner R. L. & Walker M. P. (2009) REM sleep, prefrontal theta, and the consolidation of human emotional memory. Cerebral Cortex 19:1158–66.
Plihal W. & Born J. (1997) Effects of early and late nocturnal sleep on declarative and procedural memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 9(4):534–47.
Rasch B., Pommer J., Diekelmann S. & Born J. (2009) Pharmacological REM sleep suppression paradoxically improves rather than impairs skill memory. Nature Neuroscience 12:396–97.
Wagner U., Gais S. & Born J. (2001) Emotional memory formation is enhanced across sleep intervals with high amounts of rapid eye movement sleep. Learning and Memory 8:112–19.
Wamsley E. J. & Stickgold R. (2010) Dreaming and off-line memory processing. Current Biology 20:R1010–13.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 30 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 148 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.