Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction, J. Allan Hobson, Oxford University Press, 2002, 154 pp., illustrations, $11.95.
Oxford University Press' series of Very Short Introductions have over 150 books with topics from anarchism to the World Trade Organization. Accessible to laymen, clear and concise each of the books I've read have covered the basics and stimulated my interest for further explore the topic. >Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction in 11 chapters give the historical background of what dreams were at one time believed to be and what they currently understood to be.
From ancient times through Shakespeare and ending in the middle of the 20th century, dreams were believed to be portents of the future or concealed messages from the gods. Freud stands in this tradition. Having a phobia of religion, Freud believed that dreams were generated by an individual's 'Id' or as mythologist Joseph Campbell recently declared, 'the god within'. J. Allan Hobson, the author of this Very Short Introduction poses questions throughout the book. What is dreaming? Why did the analysis of dream content fail to become a science? How is the brain activated in sleep? What are the cells and molecules of the dreaming brain doing? Why do dreams occur? Do animals dream? Are dreams deliriums such as those who have a mental illness? What are night terrors? Does everyone dream? Could dreams fortell the future? Are dreams in black and white or color? When does a dream start? Do fetuses dream? Does dreaming have a function? Does a blind individual dream?
I suspect all of us have asked these questions to ourselves at sometime or another.
Within the limits of known biology, chemistry and electro-chemistry Hobson answers these questions. Here is what appears to be known at this time. Bodily movements in bed while sleeping make a difference in the frequency and intensity of dreaming. What you ate for dinner doesn't. Human learning, memory and cognition are interrelated and at times does not cease while we sleep. Dreams are a type of temporary psychosis. Grandiosity, fearlessness, deep depression exist in psychosis and dreaming.
Babies under the age three and animals probably dream similarly. The acquisition of language and propositional thought changes dreams. Nightmares are normal. Night terrors are emotional states that are aggravated by nightmares. Nightmares seem to come from the limbic portion of the brain. This portion of the brain is not well understood today. The rest of the answers to the above questions are in the book
CWL recommends this book and others in the series. CWL as Santa places them under the tree and in stockings for undergrads and graduate students; these gifts relate to their majors and interest area. CWL buys some for himself, such as Abraham Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction by Allan Guelzo.