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No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987

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Do dreams reflect a biological state?

Scientists have never been able to agree on the meaning of dreams or even if there is one. Mostly dreams were thought to have psychological import, as in the work of Freud and his followers. But there has also been another group of researchers who have considered dreams to be a consequence of one's biological state; that is, one's physical health. The present paper supports this latter belief.

Some 214 patients were heart problems participated in this study.

"The patients' dreams were evaluated for the predicted correlations of the number of dream references to death (men) and separation (women) with different levels of severity of heart disease. The severity of heart disease was evaluated with anatomical (coronary angiography) and physiological (ejection fraction) measures obtained at cardiac catheterization, each represented by a 6-point scale of increasing severity. There was no correlation of the number of dream references with the severity of abnormalities on coronary angiography. However, the number of dream references to death and separation correlated with the severity of cardiac dysfunction, as measured by the ejection fraction, which is a more sensitive parameter of disease severity."

(Smith, Robert C.; "Do Dreams Reflect a Biological State?" Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175:201, 1987.)

Comment. One would suppose that the minds (and dreams) of people who knew they had heart problems would normally be filled with dire thoughts.

From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss