BrainsCAN Publications

Document Type


Publication Date



Frontiers in Psychology

URL with Digital Object Identifier



© 2018 Fogel, Ray, Sergeeva, De Koninck and Owen. Can dreams reveal insight into our cognitive abilities and aptitudes (i.e., "human intelligence")? The relationship between dream production and trait-like cognitive abilities is the foundation of several long-standing theories on the neurocognitive and cognitive-psychological basis of dreaming. However, direct experimental evidence is sparse and remains contentious. On the other hand, recent research has provided compelling evidence demonstrating a link between dream content and new learning, suggesting that dreams reflect memory processing during sleep. It remains to be investigated whether the extent of learning-related dream incorporation (i.e., the semantic similarity between waking experiences and dream content) is related to inter-individual differences in cognitive abilities. The relationship between pre-post sleep memory performance improvements and learning-related dream incorporation was investigated (N = 24) to determine if this relationship could be explained by inter-individual differences in intellectual abilities (e.g., reasoning, short term memory (STM), and verbal abilities). The extent of dream incorporation using a novel and objective method of dream content analysis, employed a computational linguistic approach to measure the semantic relatedness between verbal reports describing the experience on a spatial (e.g., maze navigation) or a motor memory task (e.g., tennis simulator) with subsequent hypnagogic reverie dream reports and waking "daydream" reports, obtained during a daytime nap opportunity. Consistent with previous studies, the extent to which something new was learned was related (r = 0.47) to how richly these novel experiences were incorporated into the content of dreams. This was significant for early (the first 4 dream reports) but not late dreams (the last 4 dream reports). Notably, here, we show for the first time that the extent of this incorporation for early dreams was related (r = 0.41) to inter-individual differences in reasoning abilities. On the other hand, late dream incorporation was related (r = 0.46) to inter-individual differences in verbal abilities. There was no relationship between performance improvements and intellectual abilities, and thus, inter-individual differences in cognitive abilities did not mediate the relationship between performance improvements and dream incorporation; suggesting a direct relationship between reasoning abilities and dream incorporation. This study provides the first evidence that learning-related dream production is related to inter-individual differences in cognitive abilities.

Find in your library



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.