Several theories link consciousness to complex cortical dynamics, as suggested by comparison of brain signal diversity between conscious states and states where consciousness is lost or reduced. In particular, Lempel-Ziv complexity, amplitude coalition entropy and synchrony coalition entropy distinguish wakefulness and REM sleep from deep sleep and anesthesia, and are elevated in psychedelic states, reported to increase the range and vividness of conscious contents. Some studies have even found correlations between complexity measures and facets of self-reported experience. As suggested by integrated information theory and the entropic brain hypothesis, measures of differentiation and signal diversity may therefore be measurable correlates of consciousness and phenomenological richness. Inspired by these ideas, we tested three hypotheses about EEG signal diversity related to sleep and dreaming. First, diversity should decrease with successively deeper stages of non-REM sleep. Second, signal diversity within the same sleep stage should be higher for periods of dreaming vs. non-dreaming. Third, specific aspects of dream contents should correlate with signal diversity in corresponding cortical regions. We employed a repeated awakening paradigm in sleep deprived healthy volunteers, with immediate dream report and rating of dream content along a thought-perceptual axis, from exclusively thought-like to exclusively perceptual. Generalized linear mixed models were used to assess how signal diversity varied with sleep stage, dreaming and thought-perceptual rating. Signal diversity decreased with sleep depth, but was not significantly different between dreaming and non-dreaming, even though there was a significant positive correlation between Lempel-Ziv complexity of EEG recorded over the posterior cortex and thought-perceptual ratings of dream contents.
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