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Artificial intelligence technologies are analyzing dream content during a pandemic

Publicado em 05 fevereiro 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the behavior of people everywhere. Fear, anxiety, sadness, anxiety and other unpleasant feelings have become part of the daily life of many families since the first cases of the disease were officially registered early last year.

These troubled feelings are often expressed in dreams that reflect a heavy burden of mental suffering, fear of pollution, stress from social distancing, and lack of physical contact with others. Additionally, dream novels of this period include a greater proportion of terms related to hygiene and pollution, as well as anger and sadness.

All of this was reported in a study published in PLoS one. The lead investigator was Natalia Bezerra Motta, a neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) in Brazil.

The study was part of Mota?

7;s postdoctoral research and supervised by Siddharta Ribeiro at UFRN and Mauro Cubelli at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), both affiliated with the Center for Research, Innovation and Publishing in NeuroMat (NeuroMat).

The University of São Paulo (USP) hosts Neuromat and is one of the many Research, Innovation and Publishing Centers (RIDCs) supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP.

The results are consistent with the hypothesis that dreams reflect challenges of waking life during a pandemic, and that the prevalence of negative emotions such as anger and sadness during this period reflects a greater emotional burden that must be addressed, the authors write.

According to Mota, the results were supported by those other studies that were later published by researchers in the United States, Germany, and Finland.

The Brazilian study was initially reported in May in a pre-print version published on medRxiv, and was not yet peer-reviewed at the time (read more at: “It is the first study on this topic to experimentally examine these signs of mental suffering and their association with dream characteristics during a pandemic,” Motta said.

For Ribeiro, the study authors were able to document the continuity between what is happening in the dream world and people’s mental lives, especially psychological distress. “This is interesting from a dream theory standpoint,” he said. “Another point worth highlighting is that they did so quantitatively, using mathematics to extract semantics.”

The group published NLP tools to analyze 239 dream reports by 67 people released in March and April 2020, shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic.

According to Mota, researchers at the USP, UFRN and the federal universities of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Rio Grande do Sol (UFRGS) and Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) are conducting a multicenter study that involves analyzing data collected over a longer period. (From the start of the epidemic until July) to see how dreams are affected by the death of family members, loved ones, friends, and co-workers. “The plan is to publish the results as soon as they are ready so that mental health strategies can be based on this knowledge,” she said.

Dream accounts investigation

For some time, researchers have been developing and using computer programs that analyze language to diagnose mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and adapt similar tools to conduct cognitive assessments.

The dream accounts recorded by the volunteers using a smartphone application were copied and analyzed using three software tools. The first focused on the structure of speech, word count, and bonding.

The other two focused on the content. One of them arranged the words into specific emotional categories against a list related to positive and negative emotions. The other used a neural network to discover semantic similarities to specific keywords, such as pollution, cleanliness, disease, health, death, and life.

In their PLoS one The post, the researchers say, “the great similarity to” hygiene “in dream reports points to new social strategies (such as using masks, avoiding physical contact) and new hygiene practices (such as using hand sanitizer and other cleaning products) that have become central to new social norms and behavior. Taken together, these results show that the contents of dreams reflect the various sources of fear and frustration arising from the current scenario.

Motta noted that more suffering was expressed in dream reports provided by the volunteers, although this was discovered indirectly. There are studies on gender difference in the literature. Women reported more negative dreams and nightmares. I think this has to do with the woman’s history and daily life, with working two or three shifts, and the heavier mental burden involved in caring for themselves and a job in addition to the home and children. The epidemic has made the situation worse. “


Motta NB, Wesheimer J, Ribeiro M, et al. Dreaming during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An mathematical evaluation of dream reports reveals psychological suffering associated with fear of infection. PLoS one. 2020; 15 (11): e0242903. Doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0242903

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