Prefaces by Barbara E. Jones and Michel Jouvet
This book is devoted to a historical reconstruction and to a philosophical interpretation of physiological research on sleep and dreaming during the last sixty years, with emphasis on the new physiology of dreaming. More than a thorough analysis of the scientific developments in various fields of research pertaining to rapid-eye-movement (rem) or paradoxical sleep and dreaming, from neurochemistry and psychophysiology to developmental and evolutionary biology, the book puts emphasis on the progress of ideas about the biochemical mechanisms of sleep, from the rather simple ideas in the sixties about monoaminergic mechanisms, to the crisis of the monoaminergic theory and to the later development of much more complex models of sleep and wakefulness mechanisms. Philosophically speaking, this account raises questions about the relevance of classical concepts of causality in expérimental medicine in the case of Systems whose complexity level is initially unknown. Another still much debated issue which is dealt with is the equivalence between rem-sleep and dreaming, and the question of mental activity in sleep. Is rem-sleep really the unique physiological basis of dreaming ? The author gives also an assessment of several theoretical ideas about the function of rem-sleep, including ideas about the possible role of rem-sleep in the brains continuing process of individuality.
Claude Debru is a philosopher and historian of sciences. He is a member of the French Academic des sciences. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and worked with Michel Jouvet for several years
Preface to the Second Edition
By Michel Jouvet
"How could l 'use' a philosopher ?" This was the question I asked myself when Claude Debru proposed to join my laboratory in 1981. How was I supposed to categorize him on ail the useless and endless administrative forms that I had just received ? As a researcher ? An experimenter ? (on which animal ?) A teacher ? I chose to split up our philosopher : researcher (49.5%), experimenter (1%), and teacher (49.5%) - something which earned me a scolding telephone call from a Parisian administrative secretary : "Why only 1% experimenter ? Which animal does he experiment on ?" - "On the soul (âme in French)," I responded. The secretary understood "on the donkey" and proposed 5% - which I quickly accepted.
Thus classified, Claude Debru, whom I welcomed with much pleasure, interest, and soon friendship, visited the different positions in the lab. As attentive a listener that he was, he could sometimes ask difficult questions - "why are you doing that ?" Despite at first being considered an alien, our philosopher quickly became a friend and sometimes a confidant of the researchers.
After teaching us some basic notions of philosophy, from Aristode to Canguilhem, Claude Debru decided not to follow Kant, instead getting his own hands dirty participating in experiments on the rat and even demonstrating that intraventricular stimulation (in the cephalorachidian liquid) could increase the amount of sleep in these rodents. How could such results be interpreted ?
We discussed these mysteries every evening, whether at the laboratory, in his apartment with the warm hospitality of Armelle Debru, or at my place surrounded by cats and dogs. Little by little, I was coming to understand some of our failures, the dead-end paths of our research. There was the problem of causality : is the phenomenon of sleep governed by a single or multiple causes ? I thought that despite the many intricacies of sleep, in the end, we would come upon a final, unique cause. I thought I had discovered this proximate cause with some experiments on the serotonergic Systems of the brain. This still-unfinished story is described in detail by Claude Debru in the second edition.