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Sleep and dreaming: scientific advances and reconsiderations
  1. M J Morrell

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    Edited by Edward F Pace-Schott, Mark Solms, Mark Blagrove, and Stevan Hamad. Published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, pp 350, £65.00 (hardback). ISBN 0-521-81044-2

    How and why the brain produces dreams during sleep is a question that has intrigued researchers for many years. Accordingly it is timely that in the 50th anniversary year of the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep this book should seek to address the state of the art role of REM sleep in memory consolidation and dreaming, as well as wider consideration of the mechanisms of dreaming.

    This book consists of five papers, each written by a world expert, that are discussed by over 75 eminent sleep researchers. These commentaries are followed by a rebuttal from the five authors. The book’s format is entertaining and comprehensive, providing an efficient way to get a definitive picture of the current view.

    The book covers the relationship between dreaming, brain physiology, and brain biochemistry. Specifically, the role of REM sleep is explored using modelling of conscious states. The nature of the relationship between REM sleep and dreaming is also examined in detail, with arguments put forward against the traditional memory consolidation role of REM sleep. Some of the book contents were first published in a special issue of the journal Behavioural and Brain Science in 2000, leaving one to speculate why there is need for this book. One advantage of the book is that more recent advances in the field, such are the discovery of the orexin system, are covered in a highly informative epilogue.

    The book has a multidisciplinary approach, which is both its strength and weakness; in some cases the information is so detailed that the more general reader is likely to find it heavy going. The book has been designed to appeal to “students and researchers in neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology”. In reality it is extremely detailed and is likely to appeal more to the specialist audience.

    In summary, this is an authoritive text that covers all aspects of the production and function of dreaming in a novel format, and is likely to appeal to those wishing to gain deeper insight into this area of research.

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