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The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming

Michel Jouvet; Translator-Laurence Garey

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ISBN 10: 0262100800 / ISBN 13: 9780262100809
Published by The MIT Press, 1999
Used Condition: Used: Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming

Publisher: The MIT Press

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Used: Good

About this title


Michel Jouvet is perhaps the world's leading sleep and dream researcher. He discovered a mysterious dream state that he called paradoxical sleep. This third category of brain activity (distinct from sleeping and waking) is a state of very deep sleep with some specific motor events, including rapid eye movements (REM). In The Paradox of Sleep, Jouvet takes the reader on a scientific and sociological tour of the history of sleep and dream research, concluding with his own ideas on the function of dreaming.

Jouvet tells the story of a handful of neurobiologists, including himself, who pioneered sleep and dream research in the 1950s. He describes the technical and ideological obstacles they faced and opens his own laboratory to the reader, explaining anatomical, biochemical, and even genetic techniques. He also touches on psychological, philosophical, and metaphysical aspects of sleep and dreaming.

A key section of the book is Jouvet's discussion of why we dream. After summarizing Freud's theory of dreams, he contrasts it with current neurobiological data. Finally, he outlines his own controversial theory about why we dream: to preserve our individuality. Dreaming, claims Jouvet, is necessary for the genetic reprogramming of our brain.


"I do not believe that you need coherent behavior in science."

When an author begins a book with words like these, the reader is allowed to expect a lot. Fortunately, Michel Jouvet delivers with The Paradox of Sleep, a rare synthesis of poetry and hard science covering one of the most bizarre and inexplicable aspects of human experience, the dream. While 20 percent of us don't remember them, it's a safe bet that all of us fly, take tests, or show up at parties in our underwear every night while fast asleep, and neuroscience has only recently caught up with other scientific efforts to explain why. Jouvet was a pioneer who discovered that "paradoxical sleep"--what the rest of us call the REM, or "rapid eye movement" phase--is in fact as different from dreamless sleep as the latter is from waking. This collection of essays, seamlessly woven into a narrative whole, explains the differences between sleep states, discusses relevant animal and human research, explores the meaning of our dreams within the context of our scientific knowledge, and speculates on the evolutionary function of dreaming. Jouvet's prose reaches further than just listing interesting facts and consistently bridges the gap between our 20th-century knowledge and our medieval sense of wonder. How can a modern scientist get away with integrating deep spiritual questions with precise analysis of experimental data? It's a tough question, but one that we can hope more scientists begin asking themselves after reading The Paradox of Sleep. --Rob Lightner

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