Brain Awareness Week
Loading Events

⟵ Back to Search Results

The Science and Art of Dreaming

Mark Blagrove

Event Date + Time:
March 17 @ 6:30 pm - March 17 @ 8:30 pm

Event Location:
20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX London, United Kingdom

Venue Name:
Freud Museum London Directions

About This Event

Event Description:

Many scientists hypothesise that our dreams have a role during sleep of processing our emotions and memories from the day. That our dreams are related to emotional experiences during previous days, and are related to changes in memory performance across sleep, is used as evidence for this. This online and live event will discuss a recent book, The Science and Art of Dreaming (Routledge, 2023), which proposes and gives experimental evidence that dreams instead have a function of encouraging group bonding and empathy when they are shared after waking. The books authors, sleep scientist Professor Mark Blagrove and artist Dr Julia Lockheart, will discuss this proposal with BBC science presenter Marnie Chesterton, and show how there is currently no conclusive evidence that dreaming has any memory or emotional processing role for the brain during sleep. Instead, our sleep, and particularly REM sleep, produces these dreamt fictions as they have a beneficial group bonding function when told on waking. This is placed within the major self-domestication theory of human social evolution, as well as within experiments within cognitive science on the empathy-inducing effects of reading fiction. Experiments by the authors on the empathic effect of dream-sharing have been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology:
Blagrove M, Hale S, Lockheart J, Carr M, Jones A and Valli K (2019) Testing the Empathy Theory of Dreaming: The Relationships Between Dream Sharing and Trait and State Empathy. Frontiers in Psychology, 10:1351. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01351
The book being discussed is published by Routledge:
Blagrove M & Lockheart J (2023) The Science and Art of Dreaming. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

If the live event is full the live event can be seen at

Information on the book follows here:

Book Description

The Science and Art of Dreaming is an innovative text that reviews the neuroscience and psychology of how dreams are produced, how they are recalled and their relationship to waking life events and concerns of the dreamer. Featuring beautiful original artwork based on dream representations, the book delves deeply into what happens when we dream, the works of art we produce when asleep and the relevance of dreaming to science, art and film.

The book examines the biological, psychological and social causes of dreaming, and includes recent advances in the study of nightmares and lucid dreaming. It shows how sleep can process memories and that dreams may reflect these processes, but also that dreams can elicit self-disclosure and empathy when they are shared after waking. The playfulness, originality and metaphorical content of dreams also link them to art, and especially to the cultural movement that has most valued dreams – Surrealism. The book details the history of scientific research into dreams, including a re-reading of the two dreams of Freud’s patient, the feminist hero Dora, and also the history of Surrealism and of films that draw on dreams and dream-like processes. Each chapter starts with a dream narrative and accompanying painting of the dream to highlight aspects of each of the chapter themes.

This highly engaging book will be relevant to researchers, students and lecturers in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, psychoanalysis, consciousness and social evolution. It will also be of value within the study and practice of visual art, design and film, and will be of interest to the general reader and anyone who holds a personal interest in their own dreams.

Table of Contents

1. What are Dreams and What Affects Dream Content? 2. Why do Some People Recall Dreams More than Others? 3. Nightmares. 4. Sleep. 5. Sleep and Memory. 6. Dreaming and the Brain. 7. Lucid Dreams. 8. Freud, Psychoanalysis and Dreams. 9. Freud and Dora. 10. How to Find Meaning in Dreams: the Montague Ullman Dream Appreciation Technique. 11. Dreaming and Insight. 12. Functions and Theories of Dreams. 13. Dream-Sharing and Empathy, a New Theory of Dream Function. 14. The DreamsID Science and Art Collaboration: Surrealism and the Socialising of Dreams. 15. Sleep and Dreaming During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Exploring and Painting Covid-19 and Lockdown Dreams. 16. Dreaming, Films and Surrealism. 17. Dream-Sharing, Evolution and Human Self-Domestication. 18. Conclusions and Summary. 19. References.

Mark Blagrove is a Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Sleep Laboratory at Swansea University, UK.

Julia Lockheart is an Associate Professor at Swansea College of Art, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Design, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.


'This unique collaboration between a dream researcher and an artist provides a comprehensive summary of decades of dream research and a novel idea for a function of dreaming, while at the same time celebrating the creativity and uniqueness of our dreams, along with beautiful artworks.' – Katja Valli, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Skövde, Sweden

'Why we dream is a major question in neuroscience and psychology. Blagrove and Lockheart provide novel and compelling insights into this debate and extend it to the realms of our social world, art and evolution.' – Antonio Zadra, PhD, co-author of When Brains Dream 

'Each chapter of this book presents major research findings while maintaining the personal touch of a dream relevant to each topic and Julia Lockheart’s evocative paintings to remind us how predominantly visual dreams are.' – Deirdre Barrett, PhD, Harvard Medical School, author of The Committee of Sleep and Pandemic Dreams

'An innovative multidimensional work that dovetails highly creative artistic renderings of dreams with an authoritative account of current trends in dream research and theory.' – Tore Nielsen, PhD, Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, Montreal, Canada

'This book accomplishes the rare feat of being delightful, informative, and provocative all at the same time. As one small example of its many insights, it argues that dreams may not have a function during sleep, but nonetheless may have been important in human evolution because our ancestors increasingly shared and discussed their dreams when they gathered around their nightly fires.' – G. William Domhoff, PhD, University of California Santa Cruz, author of The Neurocognitive Theory of Dreaming: The Where, How, When, What, and Why of Dreams

"The Science and Art of Dreaming constitutes an utterly unique project. For centuries, poets and philosophers have explored how art functions like dreams; psychologists have analyzed how dreams resemble art. But has anyone till now both methodically and creatively responded to the universal phenomenon of dreaming by marrying art to research and theory, and putting science to the service of creative expression? Blagrove and Lockheart’s work literally illustrates our most common questions about dreams and dreaming with a selection of 22 dreams, accompanied by artworks that in their own way address the same issues as the explanatory text: Why are dreams so often bizarre? Why do they transport us to the past, and in such detail? Is Freud’s view still relevant? This book vividly justifies the appreciation of art associated with dreaming—Surrealism and oneiric cinema, for example—as intellectually on a par with the theoretical contributions and empirical research of science, and convincingly demonstrates the benefits of recalling and sharing dreams, especially for people in creative endeavors. – Bernard Welt, PhD. Professor Emeritus, The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, George Washington University.

Event Sponsor(s):

University of Wales Trinity Saint David; Freud Museum London

Type(s) of Event:

Exhibit, Lecture/Briefing, Online/Virtual, Press Briefing, Social Media Campaign, Symposium


General Public, High school students (9-12), K-12 Teachers, Professionals, Seniors, University students

Required Registration?


Organizer's Details

Become Partner
Organize an Event