Understanding the Brain: From Cells to Behavior to Cognition

Understanding the Brain: From Cells to Behavior to Cognition

by John E. Dowling


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, May 29


An examination of what makes us human and unique among all creatures—our brains.

No reader curious about our “little grey cells” will want to pass up Harvard neuroscientist John E. Dowling’s brief introduction to the brain. In this up-to-date revision of his 1998 book Creating Mind, Dowling conveys the essence and vitality of the field of neuroscience—examining the progress we’ve made in understanding how brains work, and shedding light on discoveries having to do with aging, mental illness, and brain health. The first half of the book provides the nuts-and-bolts necessary for an up-to-date understanding of the brain. Covering the general organization of the brain, early chapters explain how cells communicate with one another to enable us to experience the world. The rest of the book touches on higher-level concepts such as vision, perception, language, memory, emotion, and consciousness. Beautifully illustrated and lucidly written, this introduction elegantly reveals the beauty of the organ that makes us uniquely human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393712575
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 204,127
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

John E. Dowling is professor emeritus at Harvard University, and has done extensive research into the neurobiology of vision. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Part 1 Cellular Neurobiology: The Nuts and Bolts

Chapter 1 The Uniqueness of the Brain 1

Cells of the Brain: Neurons and Glia

How Special Are Neurons?

Brain Organization

Development of the Brain

Chapter 2 Brain Signals 24

Electricity and the Brain

Cell Resting Potentials

Neuronal Signaling

Transmission Down Axons


Synaptic Mechanisms

Vulnerability of Synapses

A Synaptic Disease: Myasthenia Gravis

Chapter 3 Neuromodulation, Drugs, and the Brain 48

Neurotransmitters and Neuromodulators

Classifying Synaptic Substances

Dopamine, Parkinson's Disease, and Schizophrenia

Serotonin and Depression

Neuropeptides: The Enkephalins-Endogenous Opiates

Chapter 4 Sensing the World 67

Mechanoreceptors: Touch and Hearing


Hair Cells and Audition

Second-Messenger Receptors: Olfactory and Visual

Discrimination of Odors



Part 2 Systems Neuroscience: Getting at Behaviors

Chapter 5 Simpler Nervous Systems: The Invertebrates 89

Electrical Signaling and the Squid Giant Axon

Mach Bands and the Horseshoe Crab Eye

Learning, Memory, and a Sea Snail

Circadian Rhythms, Behavioral Genetics, and Flies

Chapter 6 Vertebrate Brains 112

The Central Nervous System

Spinal Cord

The Brain

Medulla and Pons




Basal Ganglia

Cerebral Cortex

Chapter 7 Vision: Window to the Brain 131

Early Processing of Visual Information: The Retina

Next Stages of Visual Processing: The Primary Visual Cortex

Formation of Cortical Receptive Fields

Seeing Depth: Binocular Interactions

Cortical Organization: The Hypercolumn

Part 3 Cognitive Science: Higher Brain Function and Mind

Chapter 8 From Brain to Mind: Visual Perception 153

Area V2 and Higher Visual Areas

Face Recognition

Overview of Visual Processing

Visual Perception

Modulation of Cortical Responses

Chapter 9 The Dynamic Brain: Development and Plasticity 171

Migration and Differentiation of Neurons

How Do Axons Find Their Way?

The Maturing Brain

Visual System Development and Deprivation

Plasticity of the Adult Cortex

Chapter 10 Language and Brain Imaging 193

Learning Language


Language Areas in Humans

Exploring the Human Brain

Brain Imaging

Chapter 11 Remembering Things: Learning and Memory 216

Synaptic Mechanisms Underlying LTP

Long-Term LTP

LTP and Memory

Short-Term Memory

Working Memory

Accuracy of Memories

Chapter 12 The Emotional Brain: Rationality 234

The Amygdala


The Autonomic Nervous System

Reinforcing Behaviors

Orbitofrontal Cortex


Chapter 13 Consciousness 253



Control of Sleep and Arousal

Consciousness and Awareness

The Future

Artificial Intelligence

Glossary 269

Further Reading 283

Index 285

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews