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Michelle Carr, Ph.D.

Michelle Carr, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Psychiatry, working in the Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Wilfred Pigeon. She previously completed postdoctoral training at the Swansea University Sleep Laboratory, working with Professor Mark Blagrove studying sleep neurophysiology, and consciousness and cognition during sleep. Michelle received her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Montreal in 2016, conducting research under the supervision of Dr. Tore Nielsen at the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory. Her research interests center on sleep psychophysiology, disturbed dreaming, and dream engineering (influencing dreams for mental health and wellbeing). She also translates dream science research to the public by writing for Psychology Today.

Education

Swansea University Sleep Laboratory
Postdoctoral Training
2016-2019

University of Montreal
PhD Biomedical Sciences
2016

University of Rochester
BS Brain and Cognitive Sciences
BA Psychology
2010

Research

Sleep Psychophysiology

My work primarily involves human sleep research using polysomnographic (PSG) recording during overnight or nap periods, and quantitative analysis of EEG, including extraction of sleep features such as spindles and spectral power. One focus of my current work is assessing sleep and dream psychophysiology in the Deaf. My graduate and postdoctoral work has also focused on nightmares. Funding from the European Mind and Life Institute supported a study following temporal patterns of dreaming, emotional reactivity, and sleep quality in frequent nightmare sufferers, including measures of Near Infrared Spectroscopy. I also participated in an international Nightmare Treatment Symposium in 2016 for which a consensus paper was published in 2018; and published a theoretical paper comparing diathesis-stress to differential-susceptibility approaches to understanding and treating nightmares.

Dream Engineering

With colleagues at MIT, we are developing a network of researchers who work on the theme of dream engineering—applying technology and manipulating sleep and dreams to benefit memory, creativity, wellbeing, or even physical health and rehabilitation. We recently published a theoretical review on the topic. We organized the Dream Engineering Workshop at MIT Media Laboratory in January 2019, and guest edited a Special Issue on Dream Engineering with the journal Consciousness and Cognition. I also conducted a study on inducing lucid dreams via sensory stimulation with colleagues at Swansea University; Lucid dreams – where one is aware and in control of their dream while asleep – are an important and novel avenue of study for sleep medicine and nightmare treatment. Our published findings show we effectively induced lucid dreams in 50% of participants within one 3-hour session.

Selected Publications

Carr, M., Horowitz, A., Amores, J., Lopes, P., Jain, A., Bernal, G., & Maes, P. (2020). Dream engineering: Simulating worlds through sensory stimulation. Consciousness and Cognition: Special Issue in Dream Engineering.

Stocks, A., Carr, M., Mallett, R., Freegard, M., Konkoly, K., Schredl, M., & Bradshaw, C. (2020). Dream lucidity is associated with positive waking mood. Consciousness and Cognition: Special Issue in Dream Engineering.

Carr, M., Konkoly, K., Mallett, R., Edwards, C., Appel, K., & Blagrove, M. (2020). Combining pre-sleep cognitive training and REM-sleep stimulation in a laboratory morning nap for lucid dream induction. Psychology of Consciousness.

Nielsen, T., Carr, M., Picard-Deland, C., Marquis, L-P., Saint-Onge, K., Blanchette-Carriere, C., & Paquette, T. (2019). Early childhood adversity is associated with nightmare severity and sleep spindle characteristics. Sleep Medicine.

Gieselmann, A., Aoudia, M., Carr, M., Germain, A., Gorzka, R., Holzinger, B., et al. (2018). Nightmare etiology and treatment: state of the art and future perspectives. Journal of Sleep Research.

Carr, M., Sainte-Onge, K., Blanchette-Carrière, C., Marquis, L-P., Paquette, T., & Nielsen, T. (2017). Frequent nightmare recallers exhibit increased perseveration on a Verbal Fluency Task : A replication. Journal of Sleep Research.

Carr, M. & Nielsen, T. (2017). A novel Differential Susceptibility framework for the study of nightmares: Evidence for trait Sensory-Processing Sensitivity. Clinical Psychology Review.

Carr, M., Blanchette-Carrière, C., Solomonova, E., Paquette, T., & Nielsen, T. (2016). Intensified daydreams and nap dreams in frequent nightmare sufferers. Dreaming, 26(2), 119-131.

Carr, M. & Nielsen, T.  (2015). Morning REM sleep naps facilitate broad access to emotional semantic networks. Sleep. 38(3), 433-443.

Pigeon, W.R., Carr, M., Gorman, C., Perlis, M.L. (2010).  Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of Medicinal Food. 13(3), 579-83.

Selected Book Chapters

Pigeon, W.R. & Carr, M. (In press). Dreams and Nightmares in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In M. Kryger and T. Roth (Eds.): Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (7th edition). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Inc.

Carr, M. & Nielsen, T. (In press). What is the function of nightmares? In M. Kryger and T. Roth (Eds.): Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (7th edition). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Inc.

Carr, M. & Solomonova, E. (2018). Dream recall and content in different sleep stages and time-of-night effect. In A. Hoss, K.Valli & R. Gongloff (Eds.): Dreams: Biology, Psychology and Culture. Greenwood ABC-CLIO Publishing.

Solomonova, E. & Carr, M. (2018). Incorporation of External Stimuli into Dream Content. In A. Hoss, K.Valli & R. Gongloff (Eds.): Dreams: Biology, Psychology and Culture. Greenwood ABC-CLIO Publishing.