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Nightmares: The Science and Solution of Those Frightening Visions during Sleep (Brain, Behavior, and Evolution)

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0313345128
ISBN-10: 0313345120
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Editorial Reviews


"…the author illustrates findings in clear tables and graphs and includes an extensive list of references…Well written and including a wealth of information…Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals." - Choice

"In the tradition of dream studies, McNamara breaks new ground for future theories about the nightmare. The nightmare resembles any other adaptive system, in its functional design and the problem it addressed for ancestral populations. For readers, fascinated with the origin of nightmares, the brain's physiology and current trends in neuroscience, McNamara's book offers a concrete and perhaps less bleak look at nightmares." - Examiner.com

About the Author

Patrick McNamara is Director of the Evolutionary Neurobehavior Laboratory at VA New England Health Care System and Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. He is also Series Editor for the Praeger series Brain, Behavior, and Evolution. McNamara is trained in Neurocognitive Science. He is a member of the Sleep Research Society and the Association for the Study of Dreams. He is currently researching problems of the evolution and phylogeny of REM and NREM sleep states.


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Product Details

  • Series: Brain, Behavior, and Evolution
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (July 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313345120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313345128
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,516,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. E. Tappan on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book concludes that a nightmare is: a horrific or disturbing vision of a physiological processes, a meaningless occurrence (in any practical sense of emotional or self understanding), a gender magnet for the opposite sex (at least to our pre-modern ancestors), a schizoid event, a lethal threat to the weak heart, a non-metaphorical construct, a story-line for the ancient shaman, and a real downer.

The author theorizes that nightmares persist in human experience as a vestige of ancestral human pre-history when natural selection gave the advantage to those who gained social prominence, prestige and respect by compellingly reporting their night-time dream struggles and battles. The effect of reporting these nightmarish dreams in the culture of our "pre modern" ancestors, McNamara states, not only acted to elevate social status, but served to funnel these creative individuals (those with a frequent history of nightmares) into spiritual (shamanic) and healing "professions." According to the author, the prestige gained increased the likelihood of survival and "positive selection" within tribal communities. McNamara also theorizes that the stories of nightmares themselves, if believed, could have led to increased vigilance and thus improved chances of survival in a hostile world.

McNamara contends that the figure of a dreamed "supernatural monster" or demon who wants to possess or take over the dreamer's sense of self is central to the understanding of nightmares.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was apparently a scientific paper fleshed out just a bit for book length, making an already slim volume even slimmer in actual material because it was so repetitive. Nonetheless, it is solid science and quite intriguing in its implications.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review: Patrick McNamara, Nightmares: The Science and Solution of Those Frightening Visions during Sleep
First an apology to Patrick McNamara as this review follows Nightmares publication by 8-years and a lot of research has occurred subsequently. The book Nightmares, in my personal opinion, is an excellent example of the contemporary reductions of phenomenal experiences to biochemistry and cell biology. The criticisms that follow argue that biology alone cannot explain dreams and nightmares.
Chapter 5 on the “Biology of Nightamres” is 8-years old in a world of research that expands exponentially. Nevertheless, I found this chapter to be one of the most, if not the most, succinct integrations of nightmare biology I’ve read. In contrast to McNamara’s review in Chapter 5, Chapter 7 on “Phenomenology of the Nightmare” offers few if any insights into nightmares as a first-person experience. Nevertheless, overall, Nightmares is a book that serious students of dreams should have on their shelf.
Below, I will cite various sections of Nightmares and comment from a perspective that supports a joint integration of dream reduction to biology that also gives the phenomenal counterpart its due:
P. 30: Barb Sanders’ dream reports are used extensively, but interpreted minimally. I believe this section demonstrates the weakness of third-person interpretation of dreams, especially because McNamara does not even interview the subject. Comparing McNamara’s third-person interpretations to Allan Hobson’s first-person interpretations in 13 Dreams Freud Never Had highlights the differences between these two approaches.
The value of combining reductionist research with first-person phenomenal analysis of dreams identifies dual states of consciousness during lucid dreaming.
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