Stroke Attacks Dreams

September 17, 2004

In 1997, a 73-year-old woman entered an emergency room in Switzerland because she was having problems seeing and the left side of her body was weak. Doctors determined that the woman had a stroke and an MRI revealed damage to the occipital lobes on both sides of her brain.

Some of the woman's visual problems cleared up and she had normal scores on memory, learning and attention tests two weeks after the stroke. However, the woman said she stopped dreaming! Before the stroke, the woman was able to recall dreams three to four times a week. EEG recordings did not show anything abnormal; in fact, the woman had normal periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during the night. Unlike most people however, the woman could not recall a dream when she was awakened during an REM period. Even one year after the stroke, the woman reported that she rarely dreamed.

Although this case is interesting, it brings up several unanswered questions that need further research:

  1. Did the woman actually stop having dreams, or did she just lose her ability to remember her dreams?
  2. If the woman had normal sleep patterns, including normal REM sleep, why did she lose her ability to dream (or her memory of her dreams)? What is the link between REM sleep and dreaming?
  3. What is the association between the occipital lobes and dreaming?
  4. Do other people with damage to the occipital lobes also have problems with dreaming?

Reference and further information:

  1. Bischof, M. and Bassetti, C.L. Total dream loss: A distinct neuropsychological dysfunction after bilateral PCA stroke. Annals of Neurology, published online, September 10, 2004.
  2. Sleep - from Neuroscience for Kids
  3. Brain Tries To Help After Sleep Deprivation - from Neuroscience for Kids
  4. Sleep Deprivation in the US - from Neuroscience for Kids
  5. Sleep May Enhance Memory and Learning - from Neuroscience for Kids

How often do you remember your dreams?

Every day

Several times each week

Once a week

Once a month

Less than once a month

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