HUMAN GENETICS. EDITED by A. C. STEVENSON.BRITISH MEDICAL No. 3, September 1961. The British Council, London. Price $3.25.
THIS issue of the British Medical Bulletin provides an admirable symposium on certain biological and medical problems in human genetics. The material is up-to-date and highly readable, and should prove of interest to any physician who has genuine curiosity about genetic matters but despairs of keeping up with the masses of data accumulating each year in the world literature. Just one complaint: Why doesn’t the Bulletin put all its ads at front and back, instead of strewing them throughout the issue? LOUIS LASAGNA
YOU SLEEP. DAVID CURTIS. Libra Publishers, Price $1.35 paperbound; $3.00 clothbound.
New York, 1960. Pp. 126, not
“STUDENTS have always pored over their books far into the night, hard-working and conscientious in their pursuit of learning. “Today it is possible to be equally conscientious without working nearly so hard. It is, in fact, possible to sleep on the subject-quite literally-and learn it faster and more thoroughly than the most determined application allowed in the past”. This is how this book starts out. The author then goes on to recount alleged instances of successful sleep-learning. Thus, ten nights of sleep-learning enabled Art Linkletter to master enough Mandarin Chinese to be “able to travel throughout China and be understood perfectly by anyone who speaks the elegant Mandarin dialect”, according to the Vice-Consul of China, who interviewed Linkletter (in Chinese, of course) on a television program; “a professor . taught Greek to his five-year-old child by whispering in his ear as he slept”; “a writer . . is memorizing the dictionary at the rate of three oages a night”. There is much more of such anecdotal evidence. In keeping with the book’s subtitle-Theorv and Practice of‘ Sleep Learning-there are several chapters devoted to providing theoretical underpinnings for the method; e.g., “The Subconscious”, “Theories of Learning”, “Memory”, “Hypnosis and Sleep-Learning”. These are uniformly amateurish jobs, relying heavily on secondary sources. Often the source is what, I suppose, may be called tertiary: Life, Pageant, Reader’s Digest, etc. But the author has almost completely missed the literature on learning during sleep that has been growing up over the past decade. The interested physician should ignore this book and go directly to a series of excellent articles by C. W. Simon and W. H. Emmons. In the first, they review ten studies of sleep-learning and conclude: “It is highly speculative whether or not the studies reviewed in this paper have presented any acceptable evidence that learning during sleep is possible” (Psycho/. Bull. 52,328-342, 1955). The authors emphasize the word “sleep” because they believe that the heart of the problem is making sure that the subject is actually asleep while the material he is to learn is presented to him. They believe that the best criterion of level of sleep is alpha rhythm activity on the electroencephalogram. In two excellent experiments (SIMON, C. W. and EMMONS,W. H.: J. exp. Psychol. 51, 89-97, 1956; EMMONS, W. H. and SIMON,C. W. : Amer. J. Psych&. 69,76-81, 1956) they found that only material presented during periods of alpha rhythm activity (indicative of arousal) was remembered the next morning. Subjects did not learn while asleep by EEG criteria. These experimenters concluded: “Perhaps the future development of new and unknown techniques will permit someone to learn complex material while he sleeps, but for the present, sleep-learning is not the simple matter that some experimenters and commercial firms which sell equipment for this purpose would lead us to believe” (J. exp. Psychol. 51, 96, 1956). No such techniques have appeared. VICTOR G. LATIES