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Brains: How They Seem to Work

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Brains: How They Seem to Work


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A powerful, personal guide to the history and future of neuroscience, from one of the field's leading researchers

  • Surprising lessons from what we see: what complex neural processes owe to evolution.
  • Brains and those who think about them: meet the extraordinary individuals who've shaped neuroscience.
  • The "ghost in the machine" disappears: Is free will an illusion?
  • Why decades of neuroscience research may have gone as far as they can and the new paradigm shift that may be coming.
  • Description

    • Copyright 2010
    • Edition: 1st
    • Book
    • ISBN-10: 0-13-705509-9
    • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-705509-8

    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

    Sample Content

    Online Sample Chapter

    The Visual System and the Brain: Hubel and Wiesel Redux

    Sample Pages

    Download the sample pages (includes Chapter 7 and Index)

    Table of Contents

    Preface     vii

    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

    Glossary     241

    Illustration credits     275

    Acknowledgments     281

    About the author     283

    Index     285

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