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 into the brain, to the level of an individual neuron? With renowned brain researcher Susan Greenfield as your guide, here is your chance to gain a bird’s eye view of the human brainand to learn more about what the brain is, how it works, what happens when one part of the brain is made dysfunctional through stroke or accident, how brain mood-modifying drugs find their targets.In a particularly fascinating chapter, Greenfield surveys for us how a brain is built and then takes us on a tour of the developing brain from the moment of conception.Throughout Greenfield poses the larger questions all readers want to consider, including: 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?
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.
- Basic Books
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- Hachette Digital, Inc.
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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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