Current Projects

Why study dreams?

Dreaming is a universal human experience and dreams have always been a source of fascination. Written accounts about their source and significance date from the dawn of civilization and laypersons, theologians, philosophers, and scientists (among others) have been studying dreams for centuries. Despite this long-standing interest in the dreaming mind, the nature of people’s dreams and its relation to waking life experiences remains poorly understood. Furthermore, we still do not know whether or not dreams serve a biological, psychological or otherwise adaptive function. That said, dreaming typically gives rise to fragile recollections that are rarely consolidated into long-term memories, but it is now well established that everybody dreams mutliple times per night and that, during a normal lifetime, one will spend the equivalent of six years (or over 52 000 hours) dreaming. What's more, some researchers believe there is no such thing as dreamless sleep! 

Understanding why we dream and how the content of this unique, universal and nightly form of mental representation relates to people’s waking thoughts and experiences lies at the heart of much our lab’s research.

Why study sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking (or somnambulism) is one of the most prevalent and dramatic instances of the NREM sleep parasomnias. The yearly prevalence in children ages 6-16 ranges from 4% to 17% and sleepwalking is far more frequent in adults (almost 4%) than commonly believed. Although children with sleepwalking tend to outgrow the disorder during mid to late adolescence, it persists into adulthood in up to 25% of cases and it is not uncommon for sleepwalking to emerge in adulthood and for the episodes to increase in severity over time.

In fact, adults with sleepwalking typically consult due to a history of aggressive or injurious behaviour during sleep. In a significant number of cases, patients report a history of episodes in which they placed themselves in dangerous situations (e.g., running into walls and furniture, trying to escape imaginary threats, leaving one's house), destroyed property (e.g., breaking windows, plumbing), suffered serious injuries (e.g., contusions, fractures, multiple lacerations) or attacked a bed partner.

Furthermore, the fact that driving motor vehicles, sexual activity, suspected suicide, and even homicide can occur during somnambulism raises fundamental questions as to the medico-forensic implications of these acts and on the neurophysiological state that characterizes patients during such episodes.

Using a variety of methods ranging from sleep EEG to genetics to brain imaging, our research aims to provide integrated insights into the disorder’s neurobiological underpinnings, to uncover key associations to various waking and sleep-related processes, and clarify diagnostic as well as treatment considerations.