School of Bioscience
Are dreams just a random noise in the machine, or could dreaming, or dreaming about particular things, have served some sort of adaptive purpose in the ancestral environment?
Main area of research
My areas of expertise include consciousness research, especially altered states of consciousness, specifically dream and sleep research. I approach these from evolutionary psychological perspective.
The explanation of consciousness poses one of the greatest challenges to science. Dreaming could be used as a model system in consciousness research, as it is a pure form of consciousness created solely by the brain when we are disconnected from environment. Dreaming and dreamless sleep allow the investigation of the neural correlates of phenomenal consciousness without the distractions that studying the waking (and always conscious) mind includes. Thus, as all subjective experiences must have neural correlates, I’m interested in the neural correlates of dreaming. Therefore in our team we have investigated, with EEG, the differences between dreamless and dreaming sleep, both in NREM and REM stages of sleep.
Second, we still do not know if dreaming, the nocturnal form of consciousness, serves any function. Are dreams just a random noise in the machine, or could dreaming, or dreaming about particular things, have served some sort of adaptive purpose in the ancestral environment? Thus, my research interests also focus on the evolutionary function of sleep and dreaming. This question is approached by using systematic dream data collection (home and laboratory) and content analysis to reveal the statistically significant patterns in dream content.
Valli, K., Frauscher, B., Gschliesser, V., Wolf, E., Falkenstetter, T., Schönwald, S V. Ehrmann, L., Zangerl, A., Marti, I., Boesch, S. M., Revonsuo, A., Poewe, W., & Högl, B. (2012). Can observers link dream content to behaviours in rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder? A cross-sectional experimental pilot study. Journal of Sleep Research, 21, 21-29. (PDF)
Valli, K. (2011) Dreaming in the multilevel framework. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 1084-1090. (PDF)
Noreika, V., Jylhänkangas, L., Móró, L., Valli, K., Kaskinoro, K., Aantaa, R., Scheinin, H., & Revonsuo, A. (2011). Consciousness lost and found: Subjective experiences in an unresponsive state. Brain & Cognition, 77, 327-334. (PDF)
Valli, K., & Revonsuo, A. (2009). The threat simulation theory in the light of recent empirical evidence - A review. American Journal of Psychology, 122, 17-38. (PDF)
Valli, K., Strandholm, T., Sillanmäki, L., & Revonsuo, A. (2008). Dreams are more negative than real life – Implications for the function of dreaming. Cognition and Emotion, 22(5), 833-861. (PDF)
(2010) The Finnish Psychological Society - Tapio Nummenmaa prize for the best PhD thesis in psychology between 2008 and 2010