Dreaming during Covid-19 pandemic: Computational assessment of dreams reveals mental suffering and fear of contagion

Natalia B. Mota, Janaina Weissheimer, Marina Ribeiro, Mizziara de Paiva, Juliana D'Avila, Gabriela Simabucuru, Monica F. Chaves, Lucas Cecchi, Jaime Cirne, Guillermo Cecchi, Cilene Rodrigues, Mauro Copelli, Sidarta Ribeiro

Neuroscience and psychology agree that dreaming helps to cope with negative emotions and learn from experience. The current global threat related to the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread social isolation. Does dreaming change and/or reflect mental suffering? To address these questions, we applied natural language processing tools to study 239 dream reports from 67 individuals either before the Covid-19 outbreak or during March-April, 2020, when quarantine was imposed in Brazil following the pandemic announcement by the WHO. Pandemic dreams showed a higher proportion of anger and sadness words and higher average semantic similarities to the terms contamination and cleanness. These features were associated with mental suffering related to social isolation, as they explained 39% of the variance in PANSS negative subscale (p=0.0092). These results corroborate the hypothesis that pandemic dreams reflect mental suffering, fear of contagion, and important changes in daily habits.

The whole paper is available here.

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