Crucial to understanding how the brain works is connectivity, and the centerpiece of brain connectivity is the connectome, a comprehensive description of how neurons and brain regions are connected. The human brain is a network of extraordinary complexity--a network not by way of metaphor, but in a precise and mathematical sense: an intricate web of billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses. How this network is connected is important for virtually all facets of the brain’s integrative function.
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.
Linguists have mapped the topography of language behavior in many languages in intricate detail. To understand how the brain supports language function, however, we must take into account the principles and regularities of neural function. Mechanisms of neurolinguistic function cannot be inferred solely from observations of normal and impaired language. In The Neural Architecture of Grammar, Stephen Nadeau develops a neurologically plausible theory of grammatic function.
Episodic memory proves essential for daily function, allowing us to remember where we parked the car, what time we walked the dog, or what a friend said earlier. In How We Remember, Michael Hasselmo draws on recent developments in neuroscience to present a new model describing the brain mechanisms for encoding and remembering such episodes as spatiotemporal trajectories.
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 a spouse’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.
In Infectious Behavior, neurobiologist Paul Patterson examines the involvement of the immune system in autism, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder. Although genetic approaches to these diseases have garnered the lion’s share of publicity and funding, scientists are uncovering evidence of the important avenues of communication between the brain and the immune system and their involvement in mental illness. Patterson focuses on this brain-immune crosstalk, exploring the possibility that it may help us understand the causes of these common but still mysterious diseases.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) suffer most visibly with such motor deficits as tremor and rigidity and less obviously with a range of nonmotor symptoms, including autonomic dysfunction, mood disorders, and cognitive impairment. The neuropsychiatric disturbances of PD can be as disabling as its motor disorders; but they have only recently begun to be studied intensively by clinicians and scientists.
The work performed by living systems ranges from photosynthesis to prodigious feats of computation and organization. This multidisciplinary volume explores work across many different levels of organization. By addressing how work gets done, and why, from the perspectives of research in a range of disciplines, including cellular and evolutionary biology, neuroscience, psychology, electrical and computer engineering, and design, the volume sets out to establish an integrative perspective on understanding work in living systems, including humans.
Today the measurable health burden of neurological and mental health disorders matches or even surpasses any other cluster of health conditions. At the same time, the clinical applications of recent advances in neuroscience are hardly straightforward.
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.