The Human Brain: A Guided Tourby Susan A. Greenfield
What would you see if you removed the skull from the human brain and then slowly worked your way deeper and deeper inside, to the level of an individual neuron? With celebrated researcher and lecturer Susan A. Greenfield as an expert guide, readers gain an up-close and personal view of the human brain -- what it is, how it works, what happens when one part of it becomes dysfunctional through a stroke or accident, how mood-modifying drugs find their targets and even a singular detailed look at the developing brain from the moment of conception. Throughout, the author poses larger questions all readers will want to consider: At what stage does individuality creep into the developing brain? How does the collection of circuits of neurons give rise not just to an individual brain but an individual consciousness? What might a fetus be conscious of?
The Human Brain offers answers that make it an enlightening and diverting read.
In 1994, Greenfield (Pharmacology/Oxford) was asked to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, a popular series aimed at teenagers and broadcast by the BBC. This book, which is aimed at adult readers, derives from that series. In it, the author approaches the brain first as a physical object, exploring its different regions, and then examining certain functions, specifically movement and vision, to demonstrate how these are carried out by the different regions engaging in a kind of "balanced dialogue." Greenfield then shifts her approach and tackles the brain from a cellular level. She begins with a single neuron and explains how the brain is built in increasingly complex circuits. She shows how neurons communicate with each other chemically and how this communication is affected by mood-altering drugs such as nicotine, morphine and its derivative heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. She next turns to the development of the brain from the beginning of life, showing how its neuronal circuitry constantly changes as a result of experience, and tackling the issue of when consciousness arises. In her final chapter she considers the various kinds of memory, raising tough questions about the relationship of brain to mind.
Happily for the reader, Greenfield, who recently began giving free public lectures on the brain in the City of London, has developed a keen sense of what curious nonscientists want to know and, equally important, how to impart scientific information with verve and clarity.
Meet the Author
Susan Greenfield is professor of pharmacology and Fellow and Tutor in Medicine, Lincoln College, Oxford. She appears regularly on television, radio, and the lecture circuit, and writes regularly for the British press, including a bi-weekly science column for the Independent on Sunday. In 1994, she became the first woman to deliver the BBC's Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 165 years since its inception. She lives in Oxford, England.
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