January 22, 2008

New books for SCR review

bookreview, books — thomasr @ 7:00 am Print This Post  AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Dear all,

As recently announced, we now present a list of books that are approved for review at the Science & Consciousness Review. If you are interested in reviewing a particular book (or a book not listed here), please send us (thomasr AT drcmr DOT dk) a note with your full name, mailing address, affiliation, motivation for reviewing the book, and the expected deadline for your review submission.

The following books are now ready for review:

The head trip - Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness

by Jeff Warren

Warren, a Canadian science journalist, combines the rigorous self-experimentation of Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open with the wacky self-experimentation of A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All in this entertaining field guide to the varying levels of mental awareness. Beginning with the mild hallucinogenic state that comes just before true sleep, he tries to hone his skills at lucid dreaming, subjects himself to hypnosis and joins a Buddhist meditation retreat, among other adventures. Along the way, he begins to realize that dreaming and waking are equivalent states, and that we can learn how to induce the subtle gradations of consciousness within ourselves. This could come off as New Age psychobabble, but Warren is well versed in the scientific literature, and he provides detailed accounts of his own research. (During one three-week period, for example, he goes to bed at sundown to recreate a period of wakefulness before returning to sleep that used to be common before electric light reconfigured our sleep schedules.) His self-mocking attitude toward his inability to achieve instant nirvana, along with a steady stream of cartoon illustrations, ensures that his ideas remain accessible. More important than the theories, though, may be the basic tools—and the visionary spirit—that Warren hands off to those interested in hacking their own minds.

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Hypnosis and Conscious States. The cognitive neuroscience perspective

Edited by Graham Jamieson

The phenomenon of hypnosis provides a rich paradigm for those seeking to understand the processes that underlie consciousness. Understanding hypnosis tells us about a basic human capacity for altered experiences that is often overlooked in contemporary western societies. Throughout the 200 year history of psychology, hypnosis has been a major topic of investigation by some of the leading experimenters and theorists of each generation. Today hypnosis is emerging again as a lively area of research within cognitive (systems level) neuroscience informing basic questions about the structure and biological basis of conscious states.

This book describes the latest advances in understanding hypnosis and similar trance states by researchers within the neuroscience of consciousness. It contains many new and exciting contributions from up and coming researchers and provides a lively debate on methodological and theoretical issues central to the development of emerging research paradigms in the neuroscience of conscious states.

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Imaginative Minds. Concepts, Controversies and Themes

Edited by Ilona Roth

Imagination is one of the most distinctive characteristics of human thought. The supreme powers of flexibility, supposition and inventiveness that are its hallmarks, whether in science, technology, business or the visual, literary and performing arts, are highly prized in contemporary societies. Yet in the fields of psychology and cognitive science, where we might expect to find the topic ‘centre-stage’, there has been comparatively little work. This volumes addresses this omission by bringing together the theories and methods of these disciplines with other perspectives offering important insights into the imagination.

The 15 chapters address key questions about the imaginative workings of the mind, including how the capacity for imagination evolved, how it is expressed and what roles it plays in children’s thinking, what psychological processes and brain mechanisms are involved, and how imagination operates in universal cultural phenomena such as music, fiction and religion, which are both the fruits of and the ‘fuel’ for imaginative minds.

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Biology of Freedom: Neural Plasticity, Experience, and the Unconscious

by Francois Ansermet (Author), Pierre Magistretti (Author), Susan Fairfield (Translator)

Freud hoped that the neurosciences would offer support for his psychoanalysis theories at some point in the future: both disciplines, after all, agree that experience leaves traces in the mind. But even today, as we enter the twenty-first century, all too many scientists and analysts maintain that each side has wholly different models of the origin and nature of those traces. What constitutes human experience, how does this experience shape us, and how, if at all, do we change our lives? Psychoanalysis and the neurosciences have failed to communicate about these questions, when they have not been frankly antagonistic. But in Biology of Freedom François Ansermet and Pierre Magistretti are at last breaking new ground.

This fully illustrated account, rigorous yet lucid and entirely accessible, shows how the plasticity of the brain’s neural network allows for successive inscriptions, transcriptions, and retranscriptions of experience, leading to the constitution of an inner reality, an unconscious psychic life unique to each individual. In what amounts to a paradigm shift based on the concept of plasticity, this elegant, seamless collaboration of a psychoanalyst and a neuroscientist bridges the gap between disciplines formerly believed to be incompatible. Ansermet and Magistretti have opened up new areas of exploration of the mind/body connection and profoundly new ways in which to understand the bodily underpinnings of personal freedom, identity, and change.

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Edited by Jonathan Bricklin

James’s notion of sciousness or “pure experience” is akin to Zen tathata (suchness). Japan’s renowned philosopher Kitaro Nishida, in fact, used James’s concept to explain tathata to the Japanese themselves. As this collection of essays makes clear, Western practioners of Zen and other nondual practices need not be spiritual vagabonds. We need, rather, to claim our inheritance from the “father of American psychology.”

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