Brains: How They Seem to Work [NOOK Book]

Overview

For 50 years, the world’s most brilliant neuroscientists have struggled to understand how human brains really work. Today, says Dale Purves, the dominant research agenda may have taken us as far as it can--and neuroscientists may be approaching a paradigm shift.

In this highly personal book, Purves reveals how we got to this point and offers his notion of where neuroscience may be headed next. Purves guides you through a half-century of the most influential ideas in neuroscience...

See more details below
Brains: How They Seem to Work

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$22.99
BN.com price
(Save 42%)$39.99 List Price

Overview

For 50 years, the world’s most brilliant neuroscientists have struggled to understand how human brains really work. Today, says Dale Purves, the dominant research agenda may have taken us as far as it can--and neuroscientists may be approaching a paradigm shift.

In this highly personal book, Purves reveals how we got to this point and offers his notion of where neuroscience may be headed next. Purves guides you through a half-century of the most influential ideas in neuroscience and introduces the extraordinary scientists and physicians who created and tested them.

Purves offers a critical assessment of the paths that neuroscience research has taken, their successes and their limitations, and then introduces an alternative approach for thinking about brains. Building on new research on visual perception, he shows why common ideas about brain networks can’t be right and uncovers the factors that determine our subjective experience. The resulting insights offer a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.

• Why we need a better conception of what brains are trying to do and how they do it
Approaches to understanding the brain over the past several decades may be at an impasse

• The surprising lessons that can be learned from what we see
How complex neural processes owe more to trial-and-error experience than to logical principles

• Brains--and the people who think about them
Meet some of the extraordinary individuals who’ve shaped neuroscience

• The “ghost in the machine” problem
The ideas presented further undermine the concept of free will

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780137060283
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 1/22/2010
  • Series: FT Press Science
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Dale Purves is Professor of Neurobiology, Psychology and Neuroscience, and Philosophy at Duke University. He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Medical School. Upon completion of an internship and assistant residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Purves was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and subsequently in the Department of Biophysics at University College London. He joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in 1973 where he was Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, and came to Duke in 1990 as the founding chair of the Department of Neurobiology in the School of Medicine. From 2003 to 2009 he was Director of Duke’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and is now Director of the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

BrainsBrainsPreface

This book is about the ongoing effort to understand how brains work. Given the way events determine what any scientist does and thinks, an account of this sort must inevitably be personal (and, to a greater or lesser degree, biased). What follows is a narrative about the ideas that have seemed to me especially pertinent to this hard problem over the last 50 years. And although this book is about brains as such, it is also about individuals who, from my perspective, have significantly influenced how neuroscientists think about brains. The ambiguity of the title is intentional.

The idiosyncrasies of my own trajectory notwithstanding, the story reflects what I take to be the experience of many neuroscientists in my generation. Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science, famously distinguished the pursuit of what he called “normal science” from the more substantial course corrections that occur periodically. In normal science, Kuhn argued, scientists proceed by filling in details within a broadly agreed-upon scheme about how some aspect of nature works. At some point, however, the scheme begins to show flaws. When the flaws can no longer be patched over, the interested parties begin to consider other ways of looking at the problem. This seems to me an apt description of what has been happening in brain science over the last couple decades; in Kuhn’s terms, this might be thought of as a period of grappling with an incipient paradigm shift. Whether this turns out to be so is for future historians of science to decide, but there is not much doubt that those of us interested in the brain and how it works have been struggling with the conventional wisdom of the mid- to late twentieth century. We are looking hard for a better conception of what brains are trying to do and how they do it.

I was lucky enough to have arrived as a student at Harvard Medical School in 1960, when the first department of neurobiology in the United States was beginning to take shape. Although I had no way of knowing then, this contingent of neuroscientists, their mentors, the colleagues they interacted with, and their intellectual progeny provided much of the driving force for the rapid advance of neuroscience over this period and for many of the key ideas about the brain that are now being questioned. My interactions with these people as a neophyte physician convinced me that trying to understand what makes us tick by studying the nervous system was a better intellectual fit than pursuing clinical medicine. Like every other neuroscientist of my era, I set out learning the established facts in neuroscience, getting to know the major figures in the field, and eventually extending an understanding of the nervous system in modest ways within the accepted framework. Of course, all this is essential to getting a job, winning financial support, publishing papers, and attaining some standing in the community. But as time went by, the ideas and theories I was taught about how brains work began to seem less coherent, leading me and others to begin exploring alternatives.

Although I have written the book for a general audience, it is nonetheless a serious treatment of a complex subject, and getting the gist of it entails some work. The justification for making the effort is that what neuroscientists eventually conclude about how brains work will determine how we humans understand ourselves. The questions being asked—and the answers that are gradually emerging—should be of interest to anyone inclined to think about our place in the natural order of things.

Dale Purves
Durham, NC July 2009

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Chapter 1 Neuroscience circa 1960 1

Chapter 2 Neurobiology at Harvard 17

Chapter 3 Biophysics at University College 37

Chapter 4 Nerve cells versus brain systems 51

Chapter 5 Neural development 69

Chapter 6 Exploring brain systems 87

Chapter 7 The visual system: Hubel and Wiesel redux 105

Chapter 8 Visual perception 123

Chapter 9 Perceiving color 143

Chapter 10 Theorganization of perceptual qualities 161

Chapter 11 Perceiving geometry 179

Chapter 12 Perceiving motion 201

Chapter 13 How brains seem to work 219

Suggested reading 235

Glossary 241

Illustration credits 275

Acknowledgments 281

About the author 283

Index 285

Read More Show Less

Preface

Brains

Preface

This book is about the ongoing effort to understand how brains work. Given the way events determine what any scientist does and thinks, an account of this sort must inevitably be personal (and, to a greater or lesser degree, biased). What follows is a narrative about the ideas that have seemed to me especially pertinent to this hard problem over the last 50 years. And although this book is about brains as such, it is also about individuals who, from my perspective, have significantly influenced how neuroscientists think about brains. The ambiguity of the title is intentional.

The idiosyncrasies of my own trajectory notwithstanding, the story reflects what I take to be the experience of many neuroscientists in my generation. Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science, famously distinguished the pursuit of what he called “normal science” from the more substantial course corrections that occur periodically. In normal science, Kuhn argued, scientists proceed by filling in details within a broadly agreed-upon scheme about how some aspect of nature works. At some point, however, the scheme begins to show flaws. When the flaws can no longer be patched over, the interested parties begin to consider other ways of looking at the problem. This seems to me an apt description of what has been happening in brain science over the last couple decades; in Kuhn’s terms, this might be thought of as a period of grappling with an incipient paradigm shift. Whether this turns out to be so is for future historians of science to decide, but there is not much doubt that those of us interested in the brain and how it works have been struggling with the conventional wisdom of the mid- to late twentieth century. We are looking hard for a better conception of what brains are trying to do and how they do it.

I was lucky enough to have arrived as a student at Harvard Medical School in 1960, when the first department of neurobiology in the United States was beginning to take shape. Although I had no way of knowing then, this contingent of neuroscientists, their mentors, the colleagues they interacted with, and their intellectual progeny provided much of the driving force for the rapid advance of neuroscience over this period and for many of the key ideas about the brain that are now being questioned. My interactions with these people as a neophyte physician convinced me that trying to understand what makes us tick by studying the nervous system was a better intellectual fit than pursuing clinical medicine. Like every other neuroscientist of my era, I set out learning the established facts in neuroscience, getting to know the major figures in the field, and eventually extending an understanding of the nervous system in modest ways within the accepted framework. Of course, all this is essential to getting a job, winning financial support, publishing papers, and attaining some standing in the community. But as time went by, the ideas and theories I was taught about how brains work began to seem less coherent, leading me and others to begin exploring alternatives.

Although I have written the book for a general audience, it is nonetheless a serious treatment of a complex subject, and getting the gist of it entails some work. The justification for making the effort is that what neuroscientists eventually conclude about how brains work will determine how we humans understand ourselves. The questions being asked—and the answers that are gradually emerging—should be of interest to anyone inclined to think about our place in the natural order of things.

Dale Purves
Durham, NC July 2009

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Mixed reaction

    I found this book very inconsistent from beginning to end. The first few chapters are a history of brain research, much of it in first person, and reading more like a bio of the author and his career (with both positive and negative comments on his colleagues). The next several chapters become far more technical than I had expected, explaining graduate-level experiments in painful detail. The final summary chapter was rather an anti-climax. Overall, interesting, informative, sometimes tedious, sometimes enjoyable.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

    Jordan

    Drinks frim his flask.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)