Hobson, J. Allan

In his book The Dreaming Brain Hobson presents a well researched theory of dreaming based on biological and psychological processes. Closely examining historical dream theories, and measuring them against present day findings, he unfolds his new theory that dreams are not disguised urges, but transparent though sometimes scrambled hallucinations.

In this theory, internally generated brain signals excite the visual and motor senses, but cannot be checked against external reality. This gives rise to bizarre imagery and discontinuities in the dream which are integrated into meaning by the brain. Hobson is not saying dreams do not hold information about the dreamer, but that such information is as straightforwardly expressed as is possible given the nature of the brain’s activity during sleep.

Another way of explaining the theory is to say that while awake the forebrain has the function of sorting and bringing meaning to the multitude of sensory impressions we receive. Most of us have observed this concerning half heard words or indistinct images which we interpret as one thing, only to find later that what we ‘heard’ or ‘saw’ was not what actually existed. Hobson goes on to say that while asleep brain signals are generated which excite many areas of the brain. These signals, Hobson and McCarley say, produce random feelings, images and motor impulses. The faculties which bring order and interpretation to the sensory welter of impressions, go to work on these random impulses and give them some measure of meaning, perhaps order them into what we call a dream. In this sense a dream is created out of chaotic or random brain activities.

The dreamer may impose particular sorts of order on these brain activities. Such personal dreaming arises out of their predispositions, fears, etc.

While this certainly explains something of the way the brain does work at times, it doesn’t cover many of the aspects of dreaming. Things such as out of body experiences and gathered information beyond the ability of the senses are not covered by this approach. See: the third example under the dream as extended perception in esp.

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