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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: George Maeda, PhD (Loma Linda University)
Description: This is one of the few books that provide a highly physiological, experimental perspective on the excitation of nerve and muscle. It is abundantly illustrated with figures from the primary literature highlighting the underpinnings of excitable membrane electrophysiology, intercellular communication, and muscle function. The few updates to this edition include voltage-gated channel molecular structure, skeletal muscle dihydropyridine and ryanodine receptors and smooth muscle activation. The previous edition was published in 1991.
Purpose: The stated objective is to give students a sound foundation in the fundamentals of nerve and muscle function from an experimental viewpoint. The authors have done this by following the pathway of discovery as revealed in the literature of the day, especially in the area of membrane electrophysiology.
Audience: The stated audience for this "introductory account" is university students in physiology, cell biology, and preclinical medicine. While a noble effort is made by these veteran researchers to evoke excitement by looking over the shoulders of giants, students without an adequate knowledge of general physics will probably have to stand on tiptoes to appreciate the view.
Features: The major portion of this book deals with membrane electrophysiology, especially the voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channels, from a classical and molecular perspective. The authors weave their way from the resting membrane clear through to synaptic communication including transmitters and receptors. The molecular basis and mechanical events of skeletal muscle contraction are discussed followed by a comparison of the excitation-contraction process in skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. Some color figures would have been nice, but the low cost of the book helps one overlook this.
Assessment: When comparing this with other books, it is important to note that this is a short, concise, introductory, low cost text specifically on nerve and muscle, not a comprehensive text on neuroscience or neurobiology. The topics are well chosen, discussed, and supported by experimental evidence. Other comparable small books include Katz's Nerve, Muscle and Synapse (McGraw-Hill, 1966) and Junge's Nerve and Muscle Excitation (Sinauer Associates, 1976). A comprehensive, highly focused text on ion channels is Hille's Ionic Channels of Excitable Membranes, 2nd edition (Sinauer Associates, 1992).