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For 50 years, the world’s most brilliant neuroscientists have struggled to understand how human brains really work. Today, says Dale Purves, the dominant research agenda may have taken us as far as it can--and neuroscientists may be approaching a paradigm shift.
In this highly personal book, Purves reveals how we got to this point and offers his notion of where neuroscience may be headed next. Purves guides you through a half-century of the most influential ideas in neuroscience and introduces the extraordinary scientists and physicians who created and tested them.
Purves offers a critical assessment of the paths that neuroscience research has taken, their successes and their limitations, and then introduces an alternative approach for thinking about brains. Building on new research on visual perception, he shows why common ideas about brain networks can’t be right and uncovers the factors that determine our subjective experience. The resulting insights offer a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
• Why we need a better conception of what brains are trying to do and how they do it
Approaches to understanding the brain over the past several decades may be at an impasse
• The surprising lessons that can be learned from what we see
How complex neural processes owe more to trial-and-error experience than to logical principles
• Brains--and the people who think about them
Meet some of the extraordinary individuals who’ve shaped neuroscience
• The “ghost in the machine” problem
The ideas presented further undermine the concept of free will
Chapter 1 Neuroscience circa 1960 1
Chapter 2 Neurobiology at Harvard 17
Chapter 3 Biophysics at University College 37
Chapter 4 Nerve cells versus brain systems 51
Chapter 5 Neural development 69
Chapter 6 Exploring brain systems 87
Chapter 7 The visual system: Hubel and Wiesel redux 105
Chapter 8 Visual perception 123
Chapter 9 Perceiving color 143
Chapter 10 Theorganization of perceptual qualities 161
Chapter 11 Perceiving geometry 179
Chapter 12 Perceiving motion 201
Chapter 13 How brains seem to work 219
Suggested reading 235
Illustration credits 275
About the author 283