The Neuropsychology of Dreams: A Clinico-Anatomical Study

The Neuropsychology of Dreams: A Clinico-Anatomical Study

The Neuropsychology of Dreams: A Clinico-Anatomical Study

The Neuropsychology of Dreams: A Clinico-Anatomical Study

Synopsis

In this book, Mark Solms chronicles a fascinating effort to systematically apply the clinico-anatomical method to the study of dreams. The purpose of the effort was to place disorders of dreaming on an equivalent footing with those of other higher mental functions such as the aphasias, apraxias, and agnosias. Modern knowledge of the neurological organization of human mental functions was grounded upon systematic clinico-anatomical investigations of these functions under neuropathological conditions. It therefore seemed reasonable to assume that equivalent research into dreaming would provide analogous insights into the cerebral organization of this important but neglected function. Accordingly, the main thrust of the study was to identify changes in dreaming that are systematically associated with focal cerebral pathology and to describe the clinical and anatomical characteristics of those changes. The goal, in short, was to establish a nosology of dream disorders with neuropathological significance. Unless dreaming turned out to be organized in a fundamentally different way than other mental functions, there was every reason to expect that this research would cast light on the cerebral organization of the normal dream process.

Excerpt

Jason W. Brown New York University Medical Center

The goal of clinical research in perception has been to study and, it is hoped, account for the different forms of object breakdown that occur with brain damage. Toward this goal, research has centered on disturbances of object perception, for example, in the visual modality, on disorders of form, shape, or movement detection, or in the recognition of colors, faces, or routes. The strategy has been to identify a specific deficit, localize it in the brain, distinguish it from associated conditions, and tease out any contaminants of language, memory, or attentional deficit. This approach assumes, of course, that naked percepts arriving in sensory cortex are subsequently associated to other areas for naming, recognition, spatial relations, and so on.

During this early--or taxonomic--phase, it was already clear that many disorders of object perception could not be readily distinguished from, say, disorders of memory. Cases were reported of visual agnosia with deficits in memory or imagery, such as inability to describe from memory or visualize an object that could not be identified. There were cases of perceptual deficits with intrusive phenomena such as illusions and hallucinations, for example, visual hallucination in the acute stage of cortical blindness. A variety of intact and altered image types were reported, including after-images, eidetic (or palinoptic) images, and imagination or thought images. Of these reports, the works of Paul Schilder, G. de Morsier, Morris Bender, Jean Lhermitte, Otto Pötzl, and Macdonald Critchley stand out, for me, as among the more important. Their observations suggested a relation between memory, imagery, and object perception that was not adequately explained by classical theory, that is, sensory or association psychology.

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