Why do we dream?

Harvard Center for Sleep and Cognition, Co-Author of When Brains Dream

Robert Stickgold is a professor of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.  He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, both in biochemistry. He had post-doctoral fellowships at Stanford Medical School in neurochemistry (with Eric Shooter) and at Harvard Medical School in neurophysiology (with Stephen Kuffler). 

He has published two science fiction novels, and over 100 scientific publications, including papers in ScienceNature, and Nature Neuroscience. His work has been written up in TimeNewsweekThe New York TimesThe Boston Globe Magazine, and Seed Magazine, and he has given invited talks around the world, including Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, and The Netherlands. He has been a guest on The Newshour with Jim Leher and NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flato several times, extolling the importance of sleep. He has spoken at the Boston Museum of Science, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and NEMO, the Amsterdam museum of science.

His current work looks at the nature and function of sleep and dreams from a cognitive neuroscience perspective, with an emphasis on the role of sleep and dreams in memory consolidation and integration.  He has been a pioneer in establishing the importance of sleep in offline memory processing, and has identified a range of memory types enhanced by sleep.  In addition to studying the normal functioning of sleep, he is currently investigating alterations in sleep-dependent memory consolidation in patients with schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, and PTSD.  His work is currently funded by NIMH. He is coauthor, with Antonio Zadra, of the new book When Brains Dream.