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The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes Its Mind Hardcover – November, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Hobson sets forth a model of consciousness that posits brain and mind as an inseparable unity and, in self-help fashion, explains how to control one's "brain-mind" states to improve health, sleep, memory and learning ability. One fascinating implication of his theory is that dreaming and psychosis have much in common. Another is that abnormal modes like schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's disease and dementia result when neurochemical or physiological changes lead to a failure in one or more of our faculties-perception, emotion, orientation, memory, attention, energy. Hobson splices recent advances in cognitive neuroscience with his own dream research, episodes in the lives of his patients and his personal experiences, such as temporary amnesia due to a car accident. His exciting report holds equal interest for laypeople and scientists.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As neurologists and psychologists find themselves on each other's turf, evidence supporting the theory that the brain and mind are inseparable grows in quantity and quality. Hobson, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, began his studies of various states of consciousness by comparing various forms of psychosis with dreams, his speciality. By analyzing the chemical properties associated with these strikingly similar states, he came to believe that we should refer to the unified and dynamic system percolating within our skulls as the brain-mind. Hobson articulates the logic behind this paradigm and explains the implications of studying consciousness from this perspective for both science and everyday life. Along the way, he provides his readers with some of the clearest descriptions yet of such crucial faculties as orientation, memory, perception, emotion, attention, and mood. As Hobson provides anecdotal examples to illustrate each brain-mind faculty, he emphasizes the value of understanding how states of consciousness affect health. Not surprisingly, he found that getting enough sleep, the "brain-mind's own resident physician," is an important path to well-being. Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (November 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316367540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316367547
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,849,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Emily Dickinson opens this book, appropriately:
"The Brain -- is wider than the Sky -- For -- put them side by side -- The one the other will contain With ease -- and You -- beside --
"The Brain is deeper than the sea -- For -- hold them -- Blue to Blue -- The one the other will absorb -- As Sponges -- Buckets -- do --
"The Brain is just the weight of God -- For -- Heft them -- Pound for Pound -- And they will differ -- if they do -- As Syllable from Sound -- "
From the section titled "Principles of the Brain-Mind Paradigm", early in the book:
"Three fundamental principles make up the brain-mind paradigm. The first is that the brain-mind is a unified system. The brain and mind are inextricably linked: no brain, no mind. ...
"The second fundamental principle . . . is that there are three cardinal brain-mind states: waking, sleeping, and dreaming. These are the fundamental organizational units of the brain-mind. ...
"The third principle is that brain-mind states can be measured and manipulated, and thus understood. We have already seen that brain-mind states are controlled by a brain-within-the-brain, the aminergic-cholinergic system. This chemical system provides a solid link between neurology, psychology, and the psychiatric use of drugs."
From the section titled "Managing Memory", not quite midway through the book:
"I believe, though I can't yet prove it, that the brain-mind traverses the states of non-REM and REM sleep in part to reinforce and reorganize memory. ...
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Russ B. Gibson on August 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed (and largely agreed with) Dr. Hobson's analysis of the brain-mind's activity in terms of the competing aminergic and cholinergic systems, I thought that he committed the fatal error that many general-audience authors in neuropsychology invariably seem to commit, namely using the latter half of a book to push upon the reader hastily-argued pet theories that would be inappropriate in a more academic literary effort. After describing his central insight of the complementary neurotransmitter systems, Hobson sketches out his own unoriginal solution to the m ind-body problem, takes pot-shots at less biologically-oriented branches of psychology, and offers a dogmatic two-page prosetylization on behalf of scientific humanism. The topics are, at best, peripheral to the central argument of the book; at worst, they display poor taste. Hobson seems to have composed the latter third of the book by elaborating on notes jotted in the back of his undergraduate lab notebooks. Since such side forays would be met more critically in a more academic setting, the rationale for Hobson's choice to include them in a general-readership book seems obvious. His poor opinion of his readers' intellectual abilities seems equally obvious, as evidenced by the low level of detail in all areas of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JTH on June 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
There is a world of business and religious people out there trying to sell simple and wishful thinking answers to who we are.

This is the first and only Scientific explanation of who we are that I have ever found. One of the few books that has shaped my perspective on my little part of the Cosmos. It has also allowed me to understand the source of my creativity and why when lying fevered, sick in bed or half asleep, creative thoughts surface. There are other concepts in this book that gives us tools to understand our self.

I am buying a copy for a friend and a new copy to replace my lost one.
Will write a full review after I reread this.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Owen Ronalds on December 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Being an absolute layman I found parts of this book a struggle to get my head round but enjoyed it none the less. It also normalised some personal puzzles about curious sleep phenomena by describing what goes on in the brain chemistry.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have found Dr. Hobson's "The Chemistry of Conscious States" to be far more helpful than Candace Pert's "Molecules of Emotion". Thank you, Dr. Hobson!
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