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Neurobiology and Neurology

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Most neurons in the brain are covered by dendritic spines, small protrusions that arise from dendrites, covering them like leaves on a tree. But a hundred and twenty years after spines were first described by Ramón y Cajal, their function is still unclear. Dozens of different functions have been proposed, from Cajal’s idea that they enhance neuronal interconnectivity to hypotheses that spines serve as plasticity machines, neuroprotective devices, or even digital logic elements.

It has long been known that aspects of behavior run in families; studies show that characteristics related to cognition, temperament, and all major psychiatric disorders are heritable. This volume offers a primer on understanding the genetic mechanisms of such inherited traits. It proposes a set of tools--a conceptual basis--for critically evaluating recent studies and offers a survey of results from the latest research in the emerging fields of cognitive genetics and imaging genetics.

Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia

A person with synesthesia might feel the flavor of food on her fingertips, sense the letter “J” as shimmering magenta or the number “5” as emerald green, hear and taste her husband's voice as buttery golden brown. Synesthetes rarely talk about their peculiar sensory gift--believing either that everyone else senses the world exactly as they do, or that no one else does. Yet synesthesia occurs in one in twenty people, and is even more common among artists.

Recent years have seen a burst of studies on the mouse eye and visual system, fueled in large part by the relatively recent ability to produce mice with precisely defined changes in gene sequence. Mouse models have contributed to a wide range of scientific breakthroughs for a number of ocular and neurological diseases and have allowed researchers to address fundamental issues that were difficult to approach with other experimental models.

Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change

Research shows that between birth and early adulthood the brain requires sensory stimulation to develop physically. The nature of the stimulation shapes the connections among neurons that create the neuronal networks necessary for thought and behavior. By changing the cultural environment, each generation shapes the brains of the next.

New Essays on Its Nature and the Methodology of Its Study
Edited by Murat Aydede

What does feeling a sharp pain in one's hand have in common with seeing a red apple on the table? Some say not much, apart from the fact that they are both conscious experiences. To see an object is to perceive an extramental reality—in this case, a red apple. To feel a pain, by contrast, is to undergo a conscious experience that doesn't necessarily relate the subject to an objective reality. Perceptualists, however, dispute this. They say that both experiences are forms of perception of an objective reality.

The thalamus plays a critical role in perceptual processing, but many questions remain about what thalamic activities contribute to sensory and motor functions. In this book, two pioneers in research on the thalamus examine the close two-way relationships between thalamus and cerebral cortex and look at the distinctive functions of the links between the thalamus and the rest of the brain.

Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon

The question of consciousness is perhaps the most significant problem still unsolved by science. In Inner Presence, Antti Revonsuo proposes a novel approach to the study of consciousness that integrates findings from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience into a coherent theoretical framework.

A Foundation for Motor Learning

Neuroscience involves the study of the nervous system, and its topics range from genetics to inferential reasoning. At its heart, however, lies a search for understanding how the environment affects the nervous system and how the nervous system, in turn, empowers us to interact with and alter our environment. This empowerment requires motor learning. The Computational Neurobiology of Reaching and Pointing addresses the neural mechanisms of one important form of motor learning.

The folk belief that the left brain hemisphere is dominant for language and the right for visuospatial functions is incomplete and even misleading. Research shows that asymmetries exist at all levels of the nervous system and apply to emotional as well as to higher cognitive processes. Going beyond the authors' previous book, Brain Asymmetry, this book reflects the most recent thinking on functional asymmetries and their structural correlates in brain anatomy.

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