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Protoconsciousness

May 17, 2011

In 2008 I was preparing a lecture and I realised I was still thinking of dreaming as an unconscious mental process, and that that was wrong. The minute I threw out the Freudian idea that dreaming is derivative of waking experience was when I could see it for what it probably is – a prediction about waking experience.

REM sleep is antecedent to waking. It occurs in utero. Now, you can’t tell me that’s because you’re trying to get rid of infantile wishes. It means that dreaming has a developmental function. It is also something that occurs relatively late in evolution: if you don’t have a thalamus and cortex, you don’t have REM sleep, despite the fact that it’s a brainstem function.

REM sleep is in the service of brain function that will ultimately lead to waking consciousness. My theory is that dreaming is not a replay of memory. It is a “preplay” of perception.

There’s nothing scientific about psychoanalysis, there’s nothing scientific about Sigmund Freud. He didn’t do a single experiment, he didn’t do any direct observation, he used no controls: the guy was out to lunch.

J. Allan Hobson’s scientific experimentation began in childhod, with a soot-filled investigation into the capacity of a chimney to admit Santa Claus. (He discovered that even with the damper open the chimney was far too narrow.) Hobson’s life as an experimentalist has continued through a pioneering career devoted to aligning psychology and biology and to investigating the relationship of dreaming and consciousness.

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