Impaired executive functions in subjects with frequent nightmares as reflected by performance in different neuropsychological tasks

Péter Simor, Péter Pajkossy, Klára Horváth, R. Bódizs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nightmare disorder is a prevalent parasomnia characterized by vivid and highly unpleasant dream experiences during night time sleep. The neural background of disturbed dreaming was proposed to be associated with impaired prefrontal and fronto-limbic functioning during REM sleep. We hypothesized that the impaired prefrontal and fronto-limbic functioning in subjects with frequent nightmares would be reflected at the behavioral level during waking tasks as well. 35-35 Subjects with frequent nightmares and matched controls participated in Study 1, involving an Emotional Go/NoGo, an Emotional Stroop task, and a Verbal Fluency task. Nightmare subjects exhibited longer reaction times in the Emotional Go/NoGo and Emotional Stroop tasks. Moreover, they committed more perseveration errors and showed less fluent word generation in the Verbal Fluency task. Nightmare subjects showed an overall slowing irrespective of the valence of the stimuli. While the effects of sleep quality and waking anxiety were associated to these deficits in some cases, these factors could not solely explain the difference between the two groups. In Study 2, 17 subjects with frequent nightmares and 18 controls were compared by a Color-word and an Emotional, block design Stroop task in order to avoid the slow effects of emotional interference potentially caused by previous items. Nightmare subjects were characterized by an overall slowing in the Emotional Stroop task, irrespective of the valence of the stimuli. In the Color-word Stroop task, nightmare subjects were not significantly slower in comparison with controls. Our results suggest that individuals with frequent nightmares are impaired in executive tasks involving the suppression of task-irrelevant semantic representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-283
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume78
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

Fingerprint

Executive Function
Sleep
Color
Parasomnias
Nightmares
Emotion
REM Sleep
Semantics
Reaction Time
Stroop
Anxiety

Keywords

  • Dreaming
  • Emotional regulation
  • Executive functions
  • Nightmare
  • Stroop task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Impaired executive functions in subjects with frequent nightmares as reflected by performance in different neuropsychological tasks. / Simor, Péter; Pajkossy, Péter; Horváth, Klára; Bódizs, R.

In: Brain and Cognition, Vol. 78, No. 3, 04.2012, p. 274-283.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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