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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Mailen Kootsey, PhD (Loma Linda University)
Description: This book describes the electrical activities of nerve and muscle cells, including information about the subcellular physical and chemical processes behind the electrical events. The first edition of the book was published in 1986 and the author has revised it every five years, with the most recent revision in 1998. The fourth edition adds new material from recent research, some expansion of explanations, and new figures.
Purpose: The author's goal for this book is "a step-by-step presentation of the physical and chemical principles necessary to understand electrical signaling in cells." The author's explanations are well written and illustrated and include mathematical equations where appropriate. However, the presentation is essentially descriptive, i.e. behaviors of equations are not explored for the reader nor are there exercises to test and build the reader's understanding. The reader of this book can learn the terminologies of membrane processes, but there is modest help for a true understanding of the origins of electrical events. The book also is limited to cellular events and has little reference to electrical behaviors that result from multicellular interactions.
Audience: The author of this book does not spell out his intended audience. From the level of coverage, the book appears to be intended for students — probably at the undergraduate level or possibly as an introduction for some graduate or professional students. The author is a prominent researcher in neurophysiology and has a substantial publication record in the field.
Features: The book begins with cellular electrical processes such as electrochemical potentials and transport mechanisms. Part II covers electrical activity in nerve cells, including synaptic transmission. Finally, Part III covers electrical events in skeletal and cardiac muscle, including excitation-contraction coupling. Molecular events are successfully related to cellular behavior and the new illustrations, while not in color, contribute well to the explanations. Some quantitative concepts are expanded in appendixes. The author and publisher also provide a Web site with supplementary materials including some good color animations.
Assessment: The revisions and new material certainly add to the usefulness of this book. Students who need a description of cellular electrical processes and mechanisms will find this book readable and well illustrated. Advanced students and researchers desiring a thorough and quantitative understanding of these processes will have to look to research and review papers and more advanced texts such as Physiology of Excitable Cells, 4th edition, by Aidley (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Mathematical Physiology by Keener and Sneyd (Springer-Verlag, 1998).