Summary and book reviews of The Mind at Night by Andrea Rock

The Mind at Night

The New Science of How and Why we Dream

by Andrea Rock

The Mind at Night
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2004, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2005, 240 pages

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Book Summary

Accessible and engaging, The Mind at Night shines a bright light on our nocturnal journeys, while revealing the crucial role dreams could play in penetrating the mystery of consciousness.

What neuroscience tells us about dreams and the very nature of consciousness.

Over the past few decades, there has been a revolution in scientific knowledge about why we dream, what's actually happening to the brain when we do, and what the sleeping mind reveals about our waking hours. Beginning with the birth of dream research in the 1950s, award-winning science reporter Andrea Rock traces the brief but fascinating history of this emerging scientific field. She then takes us into modern sleep labs across the country, bringing the scientists to life as she interprets their intellectual breakthroughs and asks the questions that intrigue us all: Why do we remember only a fraction of our dreams? Why are dreams usually accompanied by intense emotion, such as fear or anxiety? Can we really control our dreams without waking up? Are universal dream interpretations valid? Is dreaming our way of consolidating long-term memories and filtering the day's mental detritus? Can dreams truly spark creative thought or help solve problems? Accessible and engaging, The Mind at Night shines a bright light on our nocturnal journeys, while revealing the crucial role dreams could play in penetrating the mystery of consciousness.

Chapter 1
Rockettes, EEGs, and Banana Cream Pie

We experience a dream as real because it is real. . . . The miracle is how, without any help from the sense organs, the brain replicates in the dream all the sensory information that creates the world we live in when we are awake.
--William Dement

By the time Eugene Aserinsky found himself in a dungeonlike lab room at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1951, wiring his eight-year-old son, Armond, with electrodes to record his eye movements and brain waves as he slept, he was desperate. The experiment he was embarking upon absolutely had to work so that he could finally earn his degree and get a job. A perennial student at age thirty, with enough college course credits to qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records but no degree other than a high school diploma, Aserinsky was struggling to provide the basic necessities for his son and pregnant wife in an apartment so spartan that its only heat source was a potbellied ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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If you're looking for a new-age style book about dream interpretation, look elsewhere, but if you're interested in the physiology of why, and how we dream and a history of dream research, interspersed with many fascinating facts to entertain and amuse, this is the book for you.

Rock starts with the discovery of the REM phase of sleep by a University of Chicago graduate student who regularly wired up his 8 year old son with electrodes in the interest of science. She then describes William Dement's research into the five stages of normal sleep - he converted part of his apartment into a lab and had members of the Rockette's dance troupe sleepover wired up to his machines. Cash for sleeping held great appeal to these young dancers! Further experiments on animals showed that they dream too, as do babies.

That's just a few of the highlights from chapter one (exclusively excerpted at BookBrowse). The rest of the book is equally fascinating.
   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (179 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

The scientific lowdown on post-Freudian theories of dreams and dreaming. A well-written, often entertaining look inside the mind.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This exceptionally lucid and engaging work of science writing explicates breakthroughs in the study of the dreaming mind from the 1950s to the present day.

Author Blurb Professor John Antrobus, Professor of Experimental Cognition, City College of New York
An absolutely wonderful book! Rock covers a huge spectrum of opinion, theory and research. She makes the complex simple, but never sacrifices clarity for simplicity. Rock describes opposing theories, and conflicting opinions without taking sides. And she captures the intellectual and social drama of dream science with the same excitement that we all have felt over these 50 years of research. The Mind at Night will be required reading for a long time.

Reader Reviews

Ricardo Colunga

Enlightening and remarkably well-written
Andrea Rock is an elegant writer.

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Beyond the Book

In the early 1950s Eugene Aserinsky discovered the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) which is characterized by vivid dreaming.  William Dement, a fellow graduate student, then described the five stages of normal sleep, laying the foundation for all sleep research since then.  The next generation of researchers mostly debunked Sigmund Freud's theories about dreaming, while today's researchers have new technology available to them, such as MRI scans, to further expand our understanding.  

Interesting Link:
A 1997 paper by William Dement ...

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