When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep

Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold. Norton, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-324-00283-3
Psychologist Zadra and psychiatry professor Stickgold team up for this thorough look into “the relationship between brains, minds, and dreams.” To answer such questions as what dreams are and what they mean, the authors present a history of dreaming (and note that German psychologist Karl Scherner’s 1861 book on the ego and dream symbolism predated Freud’s better-known The Interpretation of Dreams) and bring things up to the present with a discussion of work done with fMRI, a kind of imaging that allows researchers to see which parts of the brain are active in stages of sleep. At the heart of the work is the authors’ Network Exploration to Understand Possibilities (NEXTUP) model, which proposes that dreaming is a “form of sleep-dependent memory processing” in which human brains connect dots they couldn’t when awake. The authors follow the implications of this model, touching on such dream-related disorders as sleep paralysis, which they argue is a dream dysfunction because it is “of no use for memory processing.” Like art, they conclude, dreaming “enriches our life while helping to guide us.” This smart mix of science and theory hits the mark. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/11/2020
Release date: 01/12/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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