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Neurobiology and Neurology

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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. Far from a mere curiosity, synesthesia illuminates a wide swath of mental life.

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.

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.

The Story of Dreaming

Michel Jouvet is perhaps the world's leading sleep and dream researcher. In The Paradox of Sleep, Jouvet takes the reader on a scientific and sociological tour of the history of sleep and dream research.

In recent years, data from neurobiological experiments have made it increasingly clear that biological neural networks, which communicate through pulses, use the timing of the pulses to transmit information and perform computation. This realization has stimulated significant research on pulsed neural networks, including theoretical analyses and model development, neurobiological modeling, and hardware implementation.

We are social animals, with evolved mechanisms to discern the beliefs and desires of others. This social reason is linked to the concept of intentionality, the ability to attribute beliefs and desires to others. In this book Jay Schulkin explores social reason from philosophical, psychological, and cognitive neuroscientific perspectives. He argues for a pragmatist approach, in which the role of experience—that is, interaction with others—is central to any consideration of action in the social world.

Approximately five percent of all children are born with the disorder known as specific language impairment (SLI). These children show a significant deficit in spoken language ability with no obvious accompanying condition such as mental retardation, neurological damage, or hearing impairment. Children with Specific Language Impairment covers all aspects of SLI, including its history, possible genetic and neurobiological origins, and clinical and educational practice.

Neurobiological and Molecular Mechanisms of Sexual Motivation

What arouses an animal or human from an inactive, nonresponsive state to a condition of activity and responsiveness? What are the biological mechanisms for this change? In this book Donald W. Pfaff focuses on a reproductive behavior typical of many female animals. Sensory stimuli from the male trigger responses in a well-defined circuit of nerve cells. At the top of the circuit, certain nerve cells receive and retain sex hormones such as estrogens and progesterone.

Exploring the Neural Code

Our perception of the world is driven by input from the sensory nerves. This input arrives encoded as sequences of identical spikes. Much of neural computation involves processing these spike trains. What does it mean to say that a certain set of spikes is the right answer to a computational problem? In what sense does a spike train convey information about the sensory world? Spikes begins by providing precise formulations of these and related questions about the representation of sensory signals in neural spike trains.

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