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Keywords:

  • dream production;
  • information processing;
  • sleep effect;
  • stimulus retention

SUMMARY  Investigations into the role played by sleep in information processing have consistently shown that the retention of information is better when the memory storage is followed by a period of sleep than of waking. Less definitive evidence, however, is available as to whether the better performance is mainly due to (a) reduction of interference during sleep, (b) slowing down of decay, or (c) consolidation processes at work during sleep. Important insights as to whether consolidation takes place during sleep have recently been provided by the thematic continuity of dreams elaborated in the same night and by the repeated incorporation of pre-sleep stimuli into dream contents. The analysis of such aspects of dreaming indicates that the items of information which are repeatedly accessed during sleep and elaborated for insertion into the ongoing dream experience are better retained at delayed recall. Finally, it is suggested that the use of the strategies applied in studying the information processing in normals may also be extended to sleep-disturbed individuals, in order to establish how memory functioning during sleep is influenced by sleep disturbances.