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Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction

October 4, 2012 on 8:32 pm | In Dream Books, Dream Types | 3 Comments
Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction

Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction

What is dreaming, and what causes it? Why are dreams so strange and why are they so hard to remember?

Replacing dream mystique with modern dream science, J. Allan Hobson provides a new and increasingly complete picture of how dreaming is created by the brain. Focusing on dreaming to explain the mechanisms of sleep, this book explores how the new science of dreaming is affecting theories in psychoanalysis, and how it is helping our understanding of the causes of mental illness.

In Dreaming, a Very Short Introduction, J. Allan Hobson investigates his own dreams to illustrate and explain some of the fascinating discoveries of modern sleep science, while challenging some of the traditionally accepted theories about the meaning of dreams. He reveals how dreaming maintains and develops the mind, why we go crazy in our dreams in order to avoid doing so when we are awake, and why sleep is not just good for health but essential for life.

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  1. Best book on dreaming and sleep This is one of the better books I’ve read on Dreaming. The details of the neurobiology of sleep was a wonderful surprise, and makes much more sense of dreaming. I’ve read a lot of books on dreaming, all of which were filled with psychological guesses, speculation, and they just never made sense to me. This book presents excellent arguments and studies for the biological aspects of sleep, and the logic that consciousness is a brain function. This books takes a look from a better perspective, IMHO, sticking to the biology of sleep, and the reality of what we are of aware of and not during dreaming, and the lack of memory thereafter. Great book!

    Comment by Dana Nourie — October 4, 2012 #

  2. Book of Dreams We all dream, even if we are not aware of it seems like we had stopped dreaming many years ago. The act of dreaming is an integral part of human sleep, and dreams have always been a source of endless fascination and speculation. People in various cultures and time periods have devoted time and effort to the interpretation of dreams, and many such interpretations have had a significant impact on culture, religion, and even the course of history. One of the early promises of psychology was the claim that it was finally able to put many such interpretive claims to a rigorous test, and psychologist to this day are beset by request from the lay public for the explanation of their own dreams.In “Dreaming – A Very Short Introduction” we are treated to the best modern scientific exploration of dreams – their nature, their causes, and whether or not they hold any special meaning. It is a very detailed book that covers most of the last hundred years of research on dreams, including the two major scientific and conceptual breakthroughs. The first breakthrough was the realization that the brain is still fairly active when we dream, albeit in the ways that are qualitatively different from those of an awake person. The other insight is more recent and it has brought to the end any hope of a systematic interpretation of dreams: dreams, by and large, don’t hold any special meaning. Most dreaming activity is a pretty random activation of various cognitive regions of the brain, and even though we still don’t know what purpose those activities may hold we are now highly certain that they don’t hold any special message for us. The study of dreaming is still very fascinating for the simple reason that it sheds a lot of light on our understanding of the way that brain works, and this book is a useful survey of the recent advances in neuropsychology.Unfortunately after reading this book I was uncertain about its main messages and lessons. This is perhaps due to the fact that the author doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind about whether he is writing a survey book of a particular research field, a presentation of his own opinions and insights, or an informal discussion of personal dreams and anecdotes that are relevant to the subject. The writing tends to be pretty glum, and the author doesn’t engage in the usual upbeat tone of voice that conveys much excitement about his own research field. This book is filled with a lot of information, but not necessarily with a lot of insight. It is still a worthwhile read, but I’d recommend that you also consider .

    Comment by Dr. Bojan Tunguz — October 4, 2012 #

  3. Lucid ‘Dreaming’ As brilliantly written, entertaining, informed and convincing an introduction to a subject as you could ever wish for. It gets to the point very quickly, talking of a ‘paradigm shift’ in dream science over the last half century brought about by a change in emphasis from dream content to dream form.This formalist account has little time for Freudian psychoanalysis. Dream interpretation is considered unnecessary, and Freud over-speculative because of a lack of detailed knowledge about brain science. Hobson takes an essentially physiological, ‘brain as mind’, approach that he thinks explains nearly everything we need to know about dreaming and consciousness – a major exception being the notoriously ‘hard problem’ of subjectivity (ie the unobservable, private states of mind and events – the so-called ‘qualia’) . Some readers – like the reviewer below, perhaps – may consider the formalism too reductionist, a charge that the author seems to anticipate when he says, ‘Much apparent complexity melts away when the science comes up with the correct simplicity. This is the true meaning of reductionism.’Despite the author’s own commitment to simplicity, the details can at times be complex, especially to those readers without much neuroanatomy or biochemistry. But Hobson carries the non-specialist with him by clever use of summary and fascinating in-text ‘inserts’ on questions like: Do animals dream? What is lucid dreaming? and Do we dream in black and white or in colour? His own dream journals are also used to illuminate common features of dreams – like their bizarre discontinuities and character instability, their heightened emotions and sensations, but simultaneously, their convincingly lifelike narratives.According to Hobson, studies show that compared to waking, dreaming involves simply the selective enhancement of certain mental functions and the diminution of others via biochemistry (and ultimately DNA). Essential reading for anyone with even the remotest interest in psychology or dreaming.

    Comment by Jon Chambers — October 4, 2012 #

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