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  • The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness
  • Wilfred Niels Arnold
The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness by J. Allan Hobson. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 2001. 333 pp., illus. $27.95. ISBN: 0-262-08293-4.

The main title of this book will attract those interested in popular culture, while the trailer promises scientific development of the subject. Although the overall format and titillating line drawings that introduce each chapter help to meet the rifling test of a new book, I am not sure about the audience that this will reach or satisfy. The book presents schematics of the human brain with labeled anatomical regions and subsequent depictions on similar templates of pathways of modulation by acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine (Figs. 2.1-2.5), which are an instructive feature. Early on, the author adopts a cubic model, based on the acronym "AIM" ("activation, input and modulation") to explain the multiplicity of targets and interactions involving the brain and chemicals. This approach may be less successful than the first: while it has the charm of a three-dimensional approach, and the arrows darting back and forth supposedly summarize the action, it tends towards the simplistic. On the other hand, the overall treatment supposes that the reader has considerable previous exposure to this complex subject. The black-and-white graphics are modest, and while there are 47 figures and a few tables, the publisher did not include a list. Portraits of Sigmund Freud, William James, J.-M. Charcot, Pierre Janet, Aldous Huxley, Milton Erickson, Albert Hofmann, Thomas de Quincey, William Wordsworth and Heinrich Klüver appear at appropriate locations. The index was adequate for the items I tried, although the text locations of chemical structures were not identified directly. Occasional errors, for example the chemical structure of acetylcholine in Figure 10.1 (but correct elsewhere), occur but are not extensive. The bibliography is limited to 15 items, of which five are by the author.

The author, J. Allan Hobson M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where he has been director of the Laboratory for Neuro-physiology since 1967. His major research interests embrace mind and behavior; sleep and dreaming; and the histories of neurology and psychiatry. Previous publications include The Dreaming Brain (Basic Books, 1988), The Chemistry of Conscious States (Little Brown, 1994) and Dreaming as Delirium (MIT Press, 1999). [End Page 448]

Wilfred Niels Arnold
Biochemistry Department, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, U.S.A. E-mail: <>.


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