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Neurobiology and Neurology

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The Collected Papers of Wilfrid Rall with Commentaries

Wilfrid Rall was a pioneer in establishing the integrative functions of neuronal dendrites that have provided a foundation for neurobiology in general and computational neuroscience in particular. This collection of fifteen previously published papers, some of them not widely available, have been carefully chosen and annotated by Rall's colleagues and other leading neuroscientists.

Allostatic Regulation in Physiology and Pathophysiology

Homeostasis, a key concept in biology, refers to the tendency toward stability in the various bodily states that make up the internal environment. Examples include temperature regulation and oxygen consumption. The body's needs, however, do not remain constant. When an organism is under stress, the central nervous system works with the endocrine system to use resources to maintain the overall viability of the organism. The process accelerates the various systems' defenses of bodily viability, but can violate short-term homeostasis.

Until recently, the vast majority of memory research used only university students and other young adults as subjects. Although such research successfully introduced new methodologies and theoretical concepts, it created a bias in our understanding of the lifespan development of memory. This book signals a departure from young-adult-centered research. It views the lifespan development of memory as a continuous process of growth and loss, where each phase of development raises unique questions favoring distinct research methods and theoretical approaches.

Chemically Altered States of Consciousness

In this book J. Allan Hobson offers a new understanding of altered states of consciousness based on knowledge of how our brain chemistry is balanced when we are awake and how that balance shifts when we fall asleep and dream. He draws on recent research that enables us to explain how psychedelic drugs work to disturb that balance and how similar imbalances may cause depression and schizophrenia. He also draws on work that expands our understanding of how certain drugs can correct imbalances and restore the brain's natural equilibrium.

A Union of the Senses

For decades, scientists who heard about synesthesia hearing colors, tasting words, seeing colored pain just shrugged their shoulders or rolled their eyes. Now, as irrefutable evidence mounts that some healthy brains really do this, we are forced to ask how this squares with some cherished conceptions of neuroscience. These include binding, modularity, functionalism, blindsight, and consciousness. The good news is that when old theoretical structures fall, new light may flood in.

The traditional model of synapses as fixed structures has been replaced by a dynamic one in which synapses are constantly being deleted and replaced. This book, written by a leading researcher on the neurochemistry of schizophrenia, integrates material from neuroscience and cell biology to provide a comprehensive account of our current knowledge of the neurochemical basis of synaptic plasticity.

Perceptual learning is the specific and relatively permanent modification of perception and behavior following sensory experience. It encompasses parts of the learning process that are independent from conscious forms of learning and involve structural and/or functional changes in primary sensory cortices. A familiar example is the treatment for a "lazy" or crossed eye. Covering the good eye causes gradual improvement in the weaker eye’s cortical representations. If the good eye is patched too long, however, it learns to see less acutely.

The Theoretical Analysis of Behavior

In this book J. E. R. Staddon proposes an explanation of behavior that lies between cognitive psychology, which seeks to explain it in terms of mentalistic constructs, and cognitive neuroscience, which tries to explain it in terms of the brain. Staddon suggests a new way to understand the laws and causes of learning, based on the invention, comparison, testing, and modification or rejection of parsimonious real-time models for behavior. The models are neither physiological nor cognitive: they are behavioristic.

From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy

Neuroscientists routinely investigate such classical philosophical topics as consciousness, thought, language, meaning, aesthetics, and death. According to Henrik Walter, philosophers should in turn embrace the wealth of research findings and ideas provided by neuroscience. In this book Walter applies the methodology of neurophilosophy to one of philosophy's central challenges, the notion of free will. Neurophilosophical conclusions are based on, and consistent with, scientific knowledge about the brain and its functioning.

The neurobiology and psychology of attention have much to learn from each other. Neurobiologists recognize that responses in sensory cortex depend on the behavioral relevance of a stimulus, but have few ways to study how perception changes as a result. Psychologists have the conceptual and methodological tools to do just that, but are confounded by the multiple interpretations and theoretical ambiguities. This book attempts to bridge the two fields and to derive a comprehensive theory of attention from both neurobiological and psychological data.

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