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Tapping into Missing Memories: Harvard Researchers Continue to Harness the Power of Dreams

  • New research connects sleep processes with mental health and neurologic disorders.
  • Harvard scientists find success in manipulating dream content in people with missing memories.
  • Nursing CE Central and TEDx team up to give nurses a deeper look at clinical applications of the latest sleep research.
Emilie Anderson

Emilie Anderson

Nursing CE CEntral Reporter

February 25, 2021
Simmons University

While it often seems like there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish all the professional and personal projects on our to-do list, leading brain science researchers across the country agree on the importance of dedicating a good chunk of that coveted time to…you guessed it, sleep! With unhealthy sleep patterns and sleep deprivation at an all-time high, correlating health conditions such as heart disease and depression continue to tax healthcare systems across the country.  

New studies from top universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA now show an emerging importance of sleep as it pertains to the core nature of mental health and neurologic disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, ADD, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and drug addiction. According to Harvard Psychiatry professor Robert Stickgold, PhD, the way our brains process memories during sleep may be the key to future clinical treatments of such disorders. “Our research has shown that one form of sleep-dependent memory processing is absent in patients with schizophrenia,” Stickgold explained, “We have restored this deficit in sleep spindle activity, and possibly even in sleep-dependent memory processing, pharmacologically.” 

‘Patients with dense amnesia can be induced to dream about experiences for which they have no conscious (declarative) memory,’ explained the Harvard Psychiatrist.  

The importance of a good night’s sleep has clear, research-backed impacts on both physical and mental health, but the complexities of our sleep and dreaming processes continue to surface. Results from the latest studies on the matter take a tone straight out of a science-fiction movie.

“Our dream studies have demonstrated that dream content can be manipulated experimentally,” Stickgold stated, going on to explain that his team at Harvard has been able to successfully tap into the recesses of one’s subconscious. “Patients with dense amnesia can be induced to dream about experiences for which they have no conscious (declarative) memory,” explained the Harvard Psychiatrist.

Sleep and Dreaming - TedX

Want to uncover some missing memories yourself? You’ll have the opportunity to ask brain researchers your most pressing questions on how and why, at an upcoming TEDx and Nursing CE Central partnered broadcast. Stickgold will join Stanford University’s sleep expert Rafael Pelayo, MD, Gina Poe, PhD, of UCLA, Antonio Zadra, PhD, with the University of Montreal, and University of Rochester Medical Centers’ Michelle Carr, PhD, for the special presentation which promises an in-depth look at how the brain functions during sleep, how to sleep better, and the important function of dreaming 

Set for Friday, April 16, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. PST, the TEDx special will take questions from the virtual audience and teach healthcare professionals how to help patients sleep better, what our brains need to accomplish during sleep, and how to minimize chronic sleep disorders like sleep apnea. The online event also offers nursing professionals credit for continuing education endeavors.  

Registrations is now open for this continuing education event.


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