Lessons from the Lobster
Eve Marder's Work in Neuroscience
264 pp., 6 x 9 in, 29 b&w illus., 12 color plates
- Published: June 26, 2018
- Published: June 1, 2018
How forty years of research on thirty neurons in the stomach of a lobster has yielded valuable insights for the study of the human brain.
Neuroscientist Eve Marder has spent forty years studying thirty neurons on the stomach of a lobster. Her focus on this tiny network of cells has yielded valuable insights into the much more complex workings of the human brain; she has become a leading voice in neuroscience. In Lessons from the Lobster, Charlotte Nassim describes Marder's work and its significance accessibly and engagingly, tracing the evolution of a supremely gifted scientist's ideas.
From the lobster's digestion to human thought is very big leap indeed. Our brains selectively recruit networks from about ninety billion available neurons; the connections are extremely complex. Nevertheless, as Nassim explains, Marder's study of a microscopic knot of stomatogastric neurons in lobsters and crabs, a small network with a countable number of neurons, has laid vital foundations for current brain research projects.
Marder's approach is as intuitive as it is analytic, but always firmly anchored to data. Every scrap of information is a pointer for Marder; her discoveries depend on her own creative thinking as much as her laboratory's findings. Nassim describes Marder's important findings on neuromodulation, the secrets of neuronal networks, and homeostasis. Her recognition of the importance of animal-to-animal variability has influenced research methods everywhere.
Marder has run her laboratory at Brandeis University since 1978. She was President of the Society for Neuroscience in 2008 and she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Kavli Award in Neuroscience and the 2013 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience. Research that reaches the headlines often depends on technical fireworks, and especially on spectacular images. Marder's work seldom fits that pattern, but this book demonstrates that a brilliant scientist working carefully and thoughtfully can produce groundbreaking results.
Eve Marder is a heroine of neuroscience—her work has been decades ahead of the rest of the field. In the simple circuits of the lobster, she uncovered the flexibility that allows every brain to rewire itself in real time, and the self-regulatory properties at the heart of the brain's stability. This book shows a new generation the beauty and originality of Marder's work. Better still, it celebrates Eve's tenacious, challenging, and generous character, which made it all possible.
Cori Bargmann, Head of Science, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, Rockefeller University
A nuanced portrait of an inspired scientist at work.
In a biography-writing masterclass, I was once told that it was unwise to write an authorised biography of a living person; on every page the reader will feel the subject's breath down the author's neck. I think an exception can be made in cases where the “life” plays second fiddle to the “work”, and Lessons from the Lobster is a successful example of this.
Times Higher Education