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Science Neuroscience

When Brains Dream

Understanding the Science and Mystery of Our Dreaming Minds

by (author) Antonio Zadra & Robert Stickgold

WW Norton
Initial publish date
Feb 2022
Neuroscience, Human Anatomy & Physiology, Sleep & Sleep Disorders
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2022
    List Price

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"A truly comprehensive, scientifically rigorous and utterly fascinating account of when, how, and why we dream. Put simply, When Brains Dream is the essential guide to dreaming." —Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep

Questions on the origins and meaning of dreams are as old as humankind, and as confounding and exciting today as when nineteenth-century scientists first attempted to unravel them. Why do we dream? Do dreams hold psychological meaning or are they merely the reflection of random brain activity? What purpose do dreams serve?

When Brains Dream addresses these core questions about dreams while illuminating the most up-to-date science in the field. Written by two world-renowned sleep and dream researchers, it debunks common myths that we only dream in REM sleep, for example—while acknowledging the mysteries that persist around both the science and experience of dreaming.

Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold bring together state-of-the-art neuroscientific ideas and findings to propose a new and innovative model of dream function called NEXTUP—Network Exploration to Understand Possibilities. By detailing this model’s workings, they help readers understand key features of several types of dreams, from prophetic dreams to nightmares and lucid dreams. When Brains Dream reveals recent discoveries about the sleeping brain and the many ways in which dreams are psychologically, and neurologically, meaningful experiences; explores a host of dream-related disorders; and explains how dreams can facilitate creativity and be a source of personal insight.

Making an eloquent and engaging case for why the human brain needs to dream, When Brains Dream offers compelling answers to age-old questions about the mysteries of sleep.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Antonio Zadra is a professor at the Université de Montréal and a researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine. He lives in Quebec.

Robert Stickgold is a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Editorial Reviews

[Readers] will especially relish the final chapters, which explore nightmares, lucid dreaming, narcolepsy, creativity via dreams, and even how to link a dream to waking-life events. Readers convinced that dreams reveal deep insights and those who dismiss them as meaningless will both enjoy a painless education on dreams and memory... An excellent update on the science behind dreams.—Kirkus Reviews

Fascinating…When Brains Dream steers a reasonable and broad-minded course between the many interpretive whirlpools that have swallowed previous explorers of dreams. —The Washington Post

A masterly narrative…One that neither dumbs down the research nor steps outside of what we know, and yet is still a page-turner…[Zadra and Stickgold] retain an infectious sense of the wonder of it all.—Daniel J. Levitin, Wall Street Journal

The book wields dreamy anecdotes and complex neuroscience to try to grasp the importance of these phantasms [dreams].—Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American

This smart mix of science and theory hits the mark.—Publishers Weekly

Where do we go in our dreams at night? And why do we dream in the first place? Are we the only species that dreams? When Brains Dream provides a truly comprehensive, scientifically rigorous and utterly fascinating account of when, how, and why we dream. Put simply, When Brains Dream is the essential guide to dreaming. —Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep

Every night, we turn out the light and go to the movies. For as long as humans have been conscious of our world, we’ve wondered what’s going on in that other world in which we spend a third of our lives. Some of my strangest dreams have been while I was asleep in Bob Stickgold’s lab. Finally, in When Brains Dream, I have a way to understand them. There’s more here than you ever dreamed of. —Alan Alda, New York Times–bestselling author of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

When Brains Dream unveils a novel neuroscientific model comprising an elegant and surprising piece of the puzzle of why we dream the way we do. If you are curious about the curiouser and curiouser qualia of dreams, read this book! —Stephen LaBerge, author of Lucid Dreaming