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by J Allan Hobson
MIT Press, £19.50, ISBN 0262082934
The title of this book is a reference to the chemical mechanisms of the brain that cause dreaming. As someone who has read other books about the brain and sleep this one was of particular interest to me. The author’s aim is to investigate states of consciousness with reference to his threedimensional state space model known as AIM. Briefly, the dimensions of this model are: “Activation” (energy levels in the brain), “Information Source” (input/output status of the brain), and “Modulation” (modulatory status of the brain). As a layperson I’m not in a position to decide how good or useful this model is, but at least it’s not too difficult to understand.
There are six chapters in the book, the subjects of which effectively split it into two parts. The first three chapters look at states of consciousness: normal ones such as waking and sleeping, and abnormal ones caused by dysfunctions like temporal lobe seizures. The last three chapters look at drugs (both prescribed and “recreational”) and the implications for treatment. From reading this book I gained a greater knowledge of how conscious states are reflections of, and affected by, the chemical goings on in the brain. However, I did find myself becoming overloaded with information at times. There’s no doubt that this book is worth reading by anybody wanting to understand more about the brain, and especially dreaming, but it does take quite a lot of mental effort in places to keep up with.
I think the reader is best served by using the book as a source of knowledge and should be wary of buying too much into the author’s conclusions. Many popular science books put forward new ideas and the problem is that lay readers are often not the best people to evaluate them.