The brain and the nervous system are our most cultural organs. Our nervous system is especially immature at birth, our brain disproportionately small in relation to its adult size and open to cultural sculpting at multiple levels. Recognizing this, the new field of neuroanthropology places the brain at the center of discussions about human nature and culture. Anthropology offers brain science more robust accounts of enculturation to explain observable difference in brain function; neuroscience offers anthropology evidence of neuroplasticity’s role in social and cultural dynamics.
If you touch something hot, it hurts. You snatch your hand away from the hot thing immediately. Obviously. But what is really happening, biologically–and emotionally? In Understanding Pain, Fernando Cervero explores the mechanisms and the meaning of pain. You touch something hot and your brain triggers a reflex action that causes you to withdraw your hand, protecting you from injury. That kind of pain, Cervero explains, is actually good for us; it acts as an alarm that warns us of danger and keeps us away from harm.
The consideration of time or dynamics is fundamental for all aspects of mental activity--perception, cognition, and emotion--because the main feature of brain activity is the continuous change of the underlying brain states even in a constant environment. The application of nonlinear dynamics to the study of brain activity began to flourish in the 1990s when combined with empirical observations from modern morphological and physiological observations. This book offers perspectives on brain dynamics that draw on the latest advances in research in the field.
Every time we listen--to speech, to music, to footsteps approaching or retreating--our auditory perception is the result of a long chain of diverse and intricate processes that unfold within the source of the sound itself, in the air, in our ears, and, most of all, in our brains. Hearing is an “everyday miracle” that, despite its staggering complexity, seems effortless. This book offers an integrated account of hearing in terms of the neural processes that take place in different parts of the auditory system.
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.
Although Hermann von Helmholtz was one of most remarkable figures of nineteenth-century science, he is little known outside his native Germany. Helmholtz (1821-1894) made significant contributions to the study of vision and perception and was also influential in the painting, music, and literature of the time; one of his major works analyzed tone in music.
Hemispheric asymmetry is one of the basic aspects of perception and cognitive processing. The different functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain have been studied with renewed interest in recent years, as scholars explore applications to new areas, new measuring techniques, and new theoretical approaches. This volume provides a comprehensive view of the latest research in brain asymmetry, offering not only recent empirical and clinical findings but also a coherent theoretical approach to the subject.
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.
Although fatigue has been actively investigated for more than 100 years, we have progressed little in either its theoretical or practical understanding. Fatigue has been considered to be both a symptom and an illness. Fatigue is a primary reason for patient visits to the physician's office, but it is difficult to measure and offers doctors little important information for diagnosis.
Microcircuits, functional modules that act as elementary processing units bridging single cells to systems and behavior, could provide the link between neurons and global brain function. Microcircuits are designed to serve particular functions; examples of these functional modules include the cortical columns in sensory cortici, glomeruli in the olfactory systems of insects and vertebrates, and networks generating different aspects of motor behavior.