This exceptionally lucid and engaging work of science writing explicates breakthroughs in the study of the dreaming mind from the 1950s to the present day. Rock, an award-winning medical and science reporter, proves a crisp and thorough storyteller as she portrays the professional tensions among scientific innovators and delineates theoretical controversies (in which the legacy of Freud looms large). She frequently cites interviews with neuroscientists and psychologists, bringing out the drama of their intellectual struggles. Opening with the discovery of the REM phase of sleep by a lowly University of Chicago graduate student, Rock charts the subsequent explosion in dream research: investigations into the roles of different parts of the brain in dreaming; theories of animal dreaming and the evolutionary history of dreaming; the nature of memory; and the neurological relationships among dreaming, mental illness and consciousness itself. Examples of dreams are kept to a relevant minimum, but many statistics of interest are reported. In Rock's concluding chapters, a seamlessly narrated account of a period of sustained scientific focus on the dreaming mind eases into a broader discussion of the function of dreaming in the context of contemporary scientific findings and beliefs. Here Rock discourages simplistic dream-symbol decoding in favor of a more complex approach enlightened by present-day theories.
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