- Hardcover: 184 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 16, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192803042
- ISBN-13: 978-0192803047
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep 1st Edition
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People have always been intrigued by the contents of dreams, seeking to interpret their meaning as either divine messages or the coded communiques of repressed desires, a la Freud, but what about the formal features of dreams, asks Harvard psychiatry professor and sleep expert Hobson. Dreams have specific perceptual, cognitive, and emotional qualities that set them apart from waking consciousness--loss of awareness of self, loss of orientation, loss of directed thought, reduction in logical reasoning, and poor memory--that correspond, as it turns out, to specific modes of brain activity. As Hobson meticulously matches dream features to brain chemistry, he cajoles readers into replacing mystical interpretations with an understanding of the evidence indicating that our precious dreams are the results of the brain's routine processing of an overwhelming amount of memory. Initially this perspective may seem reductively mechanical, but Hobson, who quotes extensively from his own 116-volume dream journal, doesn't deny that dreams offer clues to the psyche, and the complex workings of the brain are every bit as entrancing as the most dazzling of dreams. Donna Seaman
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"A cool outline of modern knowledge about dreams...and an explanation of what is really happening in our brains when we dream.... Throughout he uses his own dreams, recorded over many years, as examples while showing how the science of sleep has evolved over the past 50 years. Along the way, Freud takes a battering."--New Scientist
"As Hobson meticulously matches dream features to brain chemistry, he cajoles readers into replacing mystical interpretations with an understanding of the evidence indicating that our precious dreams are the results of the brain's routine processing of an overwhelming amount of memory. Initially this perspective may seem reductively mechanical, but Hobson, who quotes extensively from his own 116-volume dream journal, doesn't deny that dreams offer clues to the psyche, and the complex workings of the brain are every bit as entrancing as the most dazzling of dreams."--Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
What is our state of consciousness as we dream? Is there a hidden sexual drive behind every dream as Freud explained? These are some of the questions addressed in J. Allan Hobson’s book, Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep. As a dream researcher, Hobson specialized his studies in rapid eye movement sleep and has written six books on that topic, including this one.
Psychoanalysts, unless you are second guessing your viewpoints, this is not the book for you! If you are looking for a guide to interpret dreams, set this book down! Hobson discredits Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, and instead goes on to explain the neurobiological knowledge behind dreams. He admits that there are parts to dreams that are still a mystery. Personally, this was a small disappointment, as I was hoping there would be more straightforward answers.
The book emphasizes that the activation-synthesis theory, proposed by Hobson and Robert McCarley, takes the place of older theories such as Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. The theory holds that dreaming is the result of our brain trying to interpret and make sense of signals from the limbic system, which result from activation of brain stem circuits in REM sleep. Although dreams almost always make no chronological sense and many brain functions are impaired in this state, dreams help to organize our thoughts.
Written in first person, Hobson starts with an explanation of what dreaming is and why dream analysis is not a science. He goes into depth about how Freud’s psychoanalytic theory that dreams are influenced by unconscious desires of sexual and aggressive instincts must be rejected, and how the theory is scientifically flawed due to Freud’s carelessness his observations as well as lack of neurobiological data at the time. Scientific advancements in electrograms help to confirm the hypothesis of brain activation in sleep. REM sleep is the most stimulated sleep stage where the most cells in the brain stem are activated, which therefore accounts for the majority of our dreams.
Hobson explains that dreaming and waking are two separate consciousness states, which depends on the kind of neurotransmitter release.. Norepinephrine and serotonin are completely shut off during REM sleep, and they are fully functioning during wakefulness. This, in turn, is why certain brain functions such as learning, attention, and memory are nonfunctional while we dream. As waking is influenced greatly by external stimuli, dreaming is largely dependent on internal stimuli. Hobson goes on to describe why brain activation in sleep is important and why sleep is crucial to life.
Hobson additionally explains how dreaming, a psychotic state, is virtually identical to having a severe mental illness. Wrapping up with a discussion of the interpretation of dreams, Hobson explains why ‘Freud was 50% right and 100% wrong.’ I found the most fascinating topic to be how mental illness relates to dreaming. Hobson states, “formally speaking, dreaming and severe mental illness are not only analogous but identical.” As a psychotic state, visual hallucinations occur during dreaming just as other sensory hallucinations happen in psychological disorders. With this knowledge, I feel that it gives those without mental illnesses a way to more easily comprehend and relate to the thought processes of those that do.
I decided to read this book because dream analysis has always sparked my interest. Since I had some biological background on dream theories before reading this book, I hoped to find a complete explanation as well as learn some dream analysis. Hobson’s book did not fully satisfy my expectations, due to the fact that it did not cover any dream analysis. It did, however, help to confirm and add to what I already knew. If you have no previous knowledge on this topic and are looking for a foundation of the science of dreams, this book is for you. Also, you have to understand that Hobson does not have all the answers, as many answers about sleep are still yet to be discovered, such as “how the brain-mind reorganizes itself during sleep and how dreams might be used for better understanding of this function.”
There were several great aspects about this book, including both content and structure. Hobson did a good job explaining the basic process of how neurotransmitters play a role in the dream state, including how norepinephrine and serotonin are completely shut off during REM sleep. He writes without scientific jargon so an average adult reader can make sense of it. Another great feature is the format of this book. Each chapter is split into several different headings, which is helpful if one needs to search for a specific topic. Also, Hobson includes some of his own dream excerpts as a way to illustrate his theory, which adds a great dimension to the book.
In addition, Hobson included nine shaded boxed features to add variety. They were fun to read and address questions that many wonder about, such as, “do blind people see in their dreams?” Hobson explained that those who became blind later in life have brains that have already developed perceptual capacities, therefore are able to see in their dreams just as well as those who are not blind. On the contrary, people who were born blind have no visual imagery because of the absence of their visual systems to ever interact with the perceptual world and therefore do not see images while dreaming.
Overall, I would rate this book 4 stars out of 5 because although it covered most of what I already knew, it is a great starter book for those that want to learn the basic science of sleep. Some topics really caught my interest, and the format of this book makes it easy to read, enjoyable, and simple to seek out a specific topic.
Throughout Dreaming, Hobson includes recordings from his own dream journal to further explain phenomena of dreams, such as our poor reasoning in dreams, the bizarreness of dreams, and the intense emotion of dreams. The explanations from his dreams further cement the point he is making. One example of where his dream journal helped me understand him was the dream titled Red Car, Dream no. 16 on pg. 24. This dream explains how we feel dreams with a “surreal intensity,” even with obviously impossible circumstances such as a car half-buried in a hill traveling up it. Although the impossibility of a half-buried car should alert us that we are dreaming, we are captivated by the intense emotion that occurs within the dreams. This dream captivated Hobson because his son was in a car accident and damaged his leg. Hobson’s dreams make his explanations easy to relate to.
Hobson focuses on explaining the basics of dreaming and delves deep enough into these basics to provide the reader a more complete understanding of the complicated and unsolved mystery of dreaming. Some of the remaining mysteries are “how the brain recognizes itself during sleep and how dreams might be used for better understanding of this function.” (pg. 160) Although dreaming is becoming more understood with the great strides made by Hobson, it is not there yet. However, through this book, he is communicating the misunderstood subject to possible future researchers of dream science in a simplified yet complete way.
Overall, I found Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep to be enjoyable and interesting and would give it 4/5 stars. Very seldom was I lost during paragraphs and the book was greatly beneficial to my understanding of neuroscience, specifically dream science. I could take knowledge attained in class and apply it to topics discussed in this book and vice versa.