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The Secret World of Sleep: the Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest
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2014 > BSP 107: Sleep Science with Penny Lewis

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Ginger Campbell (GingerCampbell) | 312 comments Mod
Tomorrow I will be posting BSP 107, which is an interview with Dr. Penny Lewis, author of The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest.

Please feel free to post your comments about her book or the interview here.


Ginger Campbell (GingerCampbell) | 312 comments Mod
Here are the links for BSP 107:

show notes

play mp3


message 3: by Mario (new)

Mario C | 1 comments Very interesting topic. Thanks for interviewing Dr. Penny Lewis.


message 4: by Gary (new)

Gary (Individualien) | 1 comments I enjoyed this interview very much! I especially appreciate the evidence-based analyses of these insights. I found interesting the observations connecting the firing sequence of neurons in the brains of rats in accordance with their maze-play, with the subsequent re-firing of that sequence during sleep and the subsequent learning that took place.


message 5: by Virginia (new)

Virginia C | 2 comments I just listened to the podcast interviewing Penny Lewis on sleep and found it quite thought provoking. Yet I was really distressed by your comment in the summary that “Most sleep scientists reject psychoanalysis and other forms of dream analysis as pseudoscience.” I am a psychoanalyst who teaches a Mind & Brain Course to students who are becoming psychoanalysts. Here are some of the ideas that we work from:

1. Dreams are part of a process of integrating and articulating emotional matters, especially that that has been stirred in the previous day by the psychoanalytic work. (In this, I am referring to how we use dreams while conducting a psychoanalysis.)
2. Dreams are organized according to emotional themes, in a manner similar to how memory is organized and marked by emotion.
3. By a kind of metaphorical process (much as Dr. Lewis was describing as she spoke about the kind of brain processes that occur during REM sleep), troubling issues are worked out by likening them to issues that have fallen into similar emotional categories in the past. This accounts for the condensation (one object stands for another) and displacement (emotion about one thing standing for another) that characterizes the recounting of dreams.
4. Because of the lack of input from the outside world during sleep, dreams are more organized by the pressing personal and emotional issues of the night.


Are these the ideas that are considered to be pseudoscientific? Who are the sleep scientists who reject psychoanalytic observations?

That said, thank you for the wonderful and incisive interview!


Ginger Campbell (GingerCampbell) | 312 comments Mod
I apologize for not being more concrete in my comments. I was indirectly referring to Hobson’s comments his book Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction, in which he says that Freud was “50% right and 100% wrong.” The part of dream analysis that many scientist consider to be pseudoscience is that idea that dreams consist of symbols that can be decoded by an analyst since there is no way to test or disprove such interpretations.

However, one thing I found interesting in Hobson’s book is that he actually does think dreams are meaningful in the sense of helping us process and digest emotional content.

I know that my friend Jaak Panksepp thinks highly of Solms’ work, but I will admit I haven’t read it. Perhaps I am guilty of some personal bias here because I did spend several years in Jungian analysis before I became interested in neuroscience. Even though both the analysts I worked with wonderful, sincere people I ended up feeling that the dream analysis part was a dead end.


message 7: by Virginia (new)

Virginia C | 2 comments I was so happy with your interviews of Jaak. . .He is a great man and has made an incredible contribution to the science of the mind. And, of course, he does think highly of Mark Solms. The problem with interviewing Mark would be his books. They are not easy in many ways and not really directed at the general public. But he is a wonderful speaker. . . Additionally, Mark has had a vigorous debate with Alan Hobson; I believe the final vote left Mark the victor. Of course, as you note, Hobson has altered his views over the years.

Second, about your work with Jungian therapists. . .I know a couple of Jungian therapists who are wonderful and use much of the research on cognition that I rely on. Any good therapist is usually good despite his or her theoretical stripes, and that is true for Jungians as well. While there are certainly universal symbols in dreams within each culture, the more important part (to my mind) is how the symbols are used in processing the emotions and inner life. You have interviewed people involved in embodied cognition; I think this work is much more relevant for understanding the language of dreams and the language of the brain/mind. One of my mentors, the psychoanalyst Arnold Modell, uses the expression that "metaphor is the currency of the mind." This seems relevant to dreaming.


Andriuskulikauskas | 8 comments Ginger, I was intrigued by the fact that neurons fire synchronously during slow wave sleep. I imagine that they are resynchronizing to a rhythm which serves as a baseline from which they may deviate during the day or during REM sleep. As neurons respond to external stimuli during the day, they may develop firing patterns where they fire just slightly before or after other neurons. These slight deviations would be more noticeable if the neurons start out in syncrhony. They also would be easier to catch, during sleep, as the neurons return to synchrony. Subtle "cause and effect" relations can be captured by small differences in timing. All of this to say that the synchronizing can make for a "clock", not absolute, but relative.


Andriuskulikauskas | 8 comments Virginia, Ginger, Thank you for your posts.

A friend of mine, Joe Sochor, once pointed out that the point of each dream seems to be not the symbols (they are just the "garbage" of the day) but the subtle mood that the dream leads us to. Dreams help us listen to our emotions.

I think that moods are key to our trying to make sense of a complicated world for which we have little data. Moods challenge our principles. They are an existential simulation, a test. They let us take a fresh look at our principles: what do they seem like when we're depressed? when we're excited? when we're afraid? We can run emotional simulations thanks to our moods.

We grow emotionally by listening to our moods. People use drugs or "hang out" because they don't want to listen to their moods. Instead, they take up the mood of the group, or they listen to the mood of whatever drug they take. They thus end up emotionally stunted.


message 10: by David (new)

David Mcdivitt | 65 comments Maybe this forced rhythm is imposition of spiritual authority. Just kidding. I don't believe that stuff. But it does represent a degree of order the brain appears to depend on. Maybe the further we get from that order the crazier we become.


Ginger Campbell (GingerCampbell) | 312 comments Mod
Andriuskulikauskas wrote: "Ginger, I was intrigued by the fact that neurons fire synchronously during slow wave sleep. I imagine that they are resynchronizing to a rhythm which serves as a baseline from which they may devia..."

The study of brain rhythms should be a field in its own right, but it is also very complex so our understanding of it is very preliminary.

As far as I know the best book in this area is still Rhythms of the Brain by György Buzsáki. I interviewed him way back in BSP 31.


message 12: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Smith | 1 comments Really enjoyed the interview. I will be reading Penny's book in the near future.

As a narcoleptic, the issue of sleep and the balance of nrem and rem is something I have good experiential knowledge of. I am trying to back that up with some understanding of what is actually happening (or at least what we believe is happening) to all of us when we sleep and for narcolepsy sufferers, occasionally during the day too. Really liked the discussion of the symptoms of narcolepsy: fits in with my experiences and extends my understanding. My only comment would be around characterisation of cataplexy as falling asleep. This is not true in my experience. Although with things like sleep paralysis it is hard to tell if you are awake or asleep, cataplexy definitely feels like I am still alert. That's in contrast with falling asleep mid conversation and starting to talk about something completely different.

One issue I plan to understand in more depth is to what extent does narcolepsy cause us to lose out on nrem/slow wave sleep and what the long term effects are. It is also interesting to me what happens as we age: does the decrease in slow wave sleep make narcolepsy effects worse or is there a balancing effect and we become more normal relative to our non - narcoleptic peers.

I try and follow the research where I can, but as a layman in neuroscience I am really grateful to folks like Penny who are working on communicating this stuff.


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