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The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes Its Mind Hardcover – November, 1994
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. ...
"Though still speculation, there is mounting evidence that one of the reasons we need sleep at all is to permanently encode our memories. We sleep, and the past day's memories are reactivated as we dream, which changes their status; it advances them from short-term memory into long-term memory, perhaps by imposition of acetylcholine, which is omnipresent during sleep."
From the section titled "It's Normal to be Abnormal", toward the end of the book:
"The sleep prescription I have given myself works only for me. You will have to do your own analysis to find a prescription for yourself. As you plot the outcome, don't be surprised by extremes. There is great variation in our nonconscious states; some people need very litle sleep, others need a great deal, and many people require more (even if just a little bit more) than the social world allows."
This is truly a great book, carefully and thoughtfully written for the rest of us by a gifted working scientist.
I had to get my copy via an out-of-print book search (through a university book store), after I had read the library's copy. I paid $21 for a used copy of the paperback edition, which suggests that those who have copies are hanging onto them. A reprint edition would be very welcome indeed.