Dreaming as Delirium: How the Brain Goes Out of Its Mind

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9780262581790: Dreaming as Delirium: How the Brain Goes Out of Its Mind

With a new foreword by the author.

In this book, J. Allan Hobson sets out a compelling -- and controversial -- theory of consciousness. Our brain-mind, as he calls it, is not a fixed identity but a dynamic balancing act between the chemical systems that regulate waking and dreaming. Drawing on his work both as a sleep researcher and as a psychiatrist, Hobson looks in particular at the strikingly similar chemical characteristics of the states of dreaming and psychosis. His underlying theme is that the form of our thoughts, emotions, dreams, and memories derive from specific nerve cells and electrochemical impulses described by neuroscientists. Among the questions Hobson explores are: What are dreams? Do they have any hidden meaning, or are they simply emotionally salient images whose peculiar narrative structure refects the unique neurophysiology of sleep? And what is the relationship between the delirium of our dream life and psychosis?

Originally published by Little, Brown under the title The Chemistry of Conscious States.

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Review:

A cigar is just a cigar again! Psychiatrist and neurophysiologist J. Allan Hobson rouses us from our self-absorption in Dreaming as Delirium, an exploration of what neuroscience has pieced together about our sleeping lives. Freud, after all, was first a neurologist, turning to his theories of symbolic wish fulfillment to cover gaps in contemporary knowledge. While those gaps remain, they narrow a bit each year, and Hobson's unique clinical perspective gives him great insight into what might lie in their depths. Writing with humanistic charm, he weaves personal stories, clinical narrative, and research findings into a wide-ranging theory encompassing attention, desire, motivation, and our nearly desperate need for coherence. Ironically, this need drives us to tell ourselves the craziest stories at night--perhaps, he suggests, because we are experiencing sensations similar to those of hallucinating schizophrenics. While far from conclusive, the evidence Hobson presents strongly suggests that we are closing in on one of the most oldest and most elusive mysteries in human experience. Thoughtful and wise, Dreaming as Delirium shows the reader that hard science can reach the depths of our souls and make us more human, not less. --Rob Lightner

About the Author:

J. Allan Hobson is Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus, at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of The Dreaming Brain: How the Brain Creates Both the Sense and The Nonsense of Dreams, Dreaming as Delirium: How the Brain Goes Out of Its Mind (MIT Press,1999), The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness (MIT Press, 1999, 2001), and other books.

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