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Keywords:

  • Dreams;
  • Memory;
  • Amnesia

ABSTRACT

Dreams of six subjects with postencephalitic complete loss of memory for recent events were compared to dreams of control subjects with intact memory. The incidence of dreams decreased with the memory defect. Furthermore, the dreams were shorter, simpler, reality bound, lacked daily residue and emotional depth, and followed secondary-thought-type logic. They were stereotyped and repetitious. Instead of symbolically elaborated new attempted solutions for recent conflicts, these dreams contained the memory of events the subjects experienced before the onset of the memory defect. In each instance, the remembered event once offered a relief for a physiological need, similar to the one that precipitated the dream. Assuming that the mechanism of dreaming remains intact in these subjects with permanent memory loss for recent events, the results suggest that dreams of subjects with intact memory combine two processes: 1) a sensory stimulus of internal origin (e.g., an organic need) may serve as a decoding signal resulting in retrieval of an old memory trace; and 2) processes connected with perception and encoding the memory of recent events contribute the daily residue and the newly created symbolic elaboration of the daily residue, and old memory traces under an emotional impact.