John Allan Hobson
John Allan Hobson in Göttingen, 2010
Born (1933-06-03) June 3, 1933
Citizenship American
Fields Psychiatry and dream research
Alma mater Wesleyan University, Harvard Medical School
Known for Research on Rapid eye movement sleep, Activation-synthesis hypothesis

John Allan Hobson (born June 3, 1933) is an American psychiatrist and dream researcher. He is known for his research on rapid eye movement sleep. He is Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, and Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.


Hobson grew up in Hartford, Connecticut.[1] In 1955 he obtained his A.B. degree from Wesleyan University. Four years later he earned his MD degree at Harvard Medical School in 1959.

For the following two years he interned at Bellevue Hospital Center, New York. Then in 1960 he was a resident in Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston for a year. Hobson then traveled to France where he was a Special Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health for the Department of Physiology at the University of Lyon.

Upon returning to the United States, he went back to the Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston until 1966.

He worked in numerous hospitals and research laboratories over the years and is currently the Director of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.[2]

Hobson has received four awards for his work:[1]

  • Admission to the Boylston Medical Society
  • The Benjamin Rush Gold Medal for Best Scientific Exhibit
  • Honorary member of the American Psychiatric Association since 1978.
  • Recipient of the 1998 Distinguished Scientist Award of the Sleep Research Society


Dream theories

Hobson's research specialty is quantifying mental events and correlating them with quantified brain events, with special reference to waking, sleeping and dreaming. Hobson's latest work[3][4] puts forward the idea that during dreaming, different aspects of the conscious mind; Primary consciousness and Secondary consciousness, diverge from a unified qualia enter a self-referential interplay where by one constantly creates the environment of another. In this way, the secondary consciousness performs the role of the dream environment itself, with the primary consciousness, not usually involved in self-awareness in waking life, becomes the object of conscious identity.

This process transpires for multiple reasons, but the primary one suggested is as a means of instigating neuroplastic increases in complexity. Hobson had originally dismisses the idea that there are deep, nonphysiological, or hidden meanings in dreams, calling such notions "the mystique of fortune cookie dream interpretation." He has since backed away from these beliefs,[5] and has produced much academic work supporting the notion that dreams may contain analytically useful information,[6] just not psychoanalytically useful information in a Freudian sense of the term.

Hobson asserts that dreams require no explicit training to decipher, and are certainly not encrypted to hide their meaning, though may still be enormously useful to understanding our own psychological state so long as we ground our interpretations in the hard science of how dreams work at the physiological level. In this sense, the emotions and feeling experienced in a dream can be viewed as the brains 'best attempt' to communicate information to itself in a fractured state of awareness, as a means of preparing itself for waking consciousness the following day. By exploring these emotions in an integrated state of wakeful awareness, according to Hobson, it may be possible to gain insight into what our brain was preparing itself for and why.[7]

In addition to his many paid appointments, Hobson is actively involved with four groups relating to his neurological sleep research: the Society Memberships, the Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Sleep Research, the AAAS, and the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), for which he used to be president.[8]


Hobson has published six books that relate to his mental health and dream research. The following is a complete list:[9]

  • 1989, Abnormal States of Brain and Mind
  • 1989, The Dreaming Brain
  • 1989, Sleep
  • 1992, Sleep and Dreams
  • 1996, The Chemistry of Conscious States: How The Brain Changes Its Mind
  • 2000, Dreaming As Delirium: How the Brain Goes Out of Its Mind
  • 2002, Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness
  • 2002, Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep
  • 2002, Out of Its Mind: Psychiatry in Crisis, a Call for Reform
  • 2005, 13 Dreams Freud Never Had
  • 2005, From Angels to Neurones: Art and the New Science of Dreaming
  • 2011, Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction


  1. ^ a b Robert, Rose (2004). "Network on Mind Body Interactions". Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Hobson, J.A. (2009). "REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness". Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  4. ^ a b Hobson, J.A. (2012). "Waking and dreaming consciousness: Neurobiological and functional considerations". Progress in Neurobiology. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  5. ^ Hurd, Ryan (2010). "Allan Hobson and the Neuroscience of Dreams". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  6. ^ Gourguechon, Prudence (2009). "The Meaning of Dreams and Do Dreams have Meaning". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  7. ^ Hobson, J.A. (2001). "Out of its Mind: Psychiatry in Crisis — A Call for Reform". Perseus Publishing. Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  8. ^ President and Fellows of Harvard College (2006). "Faculty Profile". Archived from the original on 8 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  9. ^ - browse and compare book price: J. Allan Hobson

External links

  • IGS, ISGS, and NYSGS (2003-10-23). "From Mind / Body / Experiencing / Environment To MindBodyExperiencingEnvironment". Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  • The Mind Science Foundation (2007). "Tom Slick Research Awards in Consciousness 2005-2006". Archived from the original on 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  • Division of Sleep Science @ Harvard Medical School (2006). "Faculty Profile: J. Alan Hobson, MD". Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  • J. Allan Hobson (2010). "Dreamstage Museum". Archived from the original on 22 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-11.