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Mondo bizarro

Researchers identify similarities between dreams and psychotic thoughts

Dreams and psychotic ruminations have certain strange features in common, and psychiatrists have now measured the degree of similarity.

Both dreams and waking psychotic moments share cognitive bizarreness — a well-defined term in psychology. It consists of impossible plots, characters and actions: flying over Elvis’ first concert or conversing with Fido the dog. It also includes discontinuity or uncertainty in time and place: stepping outside your house, which is really your aunt’s house, and onto Mars, the day before.

“We are not talking about hallucinations,” says Silvio Scarone of the University of Milan in Italy, “but rather the organization of thinking.” When awake, normal people don’t have bizarre fantasies, he says. But when asleep, their dreams are as bizarre as a schizophrenia patient’s waking fantasies.

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