Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s 1st Edition

Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s 1st EditionFor modern scientists, history often starts with last week’s journals and is regarded as largely a quaint interest compared with the advances of today. However, this book makes the case that, measured by major advances, the greatest decade in the history of brain studies was mid-twentieth century, especially the 1950s.

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The first to focus on worldwide contributions in this period, the book ranges through dozens of astonishing discoveries at all levels of the brain, from DNA (Watson and Crick), through growth factors (Hamburger and Levi-Montalcini), excitability (Hodgkin and Huxley), synapses (Katz and Eccles), dopamine and Parkinson’s (Carlsson), visual processing (Hartline and Kuffler), the cortical column (Mountcastle), reticular activating system (Morruzzi and Magoun) and REM sleep (Aserinsky), to stress (Selye), learning (Hebb) and memory (HM and Milner).

The clinical fields are also covered, from Cushing and Penfield, psychosurgery and brain energy metabolism (Kety), to most of the major psychoactive drugs in use today (beginning with Delay and Deniker), and much more.

The material has been the basis for a highly successful advanced undergraduate and graduate course at Yale, with the classic papers organized and accessible on the web. There is interest for a wide range of readers, academic, and lay because there is a focus on the creative process itself, on understanding how the combination of unique personalities, innovative hypotheses, and new methods led to the advances.

Insight is given into this process through describing the struggles between male and female, student and mentor, academic and private sector, and the roles of chance and persistence. The book thus provides a new multidisciplinary understanding of the revolution that created the modern field of neuroscience and set the bar for judging current and future advances.

Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s 1st Edition
by Shepherd MD DPhil, Gordon M. (Author)
ISBN-13: 978-0195391503
ISBN-10: 0195391500

Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s 1st Edition – Contents

1. Introduction: Why Study History?
Why the 1940s and 1950s? 3
2. Genes: Starting with DNA 15
3. Signaling Molecules: The First Growth Factor 29
4. Signaling Molecules: The First Neurotransmitters
in the Brain 39
5. Cell Biology and the Synapse 56
6. Physiology: The Action Potential 69
7. Physiology: Synaptic Potentials and Receptor Potentials 84
8. Functional Organization of Neurons and Dendrites 100
9. Neural Circuits: Spinal Cord, Retina, Invertebrate Systems 114
10. Neural Circuits: Cortical Columns and Cortical Processing 129
11. Neural Systems: The Neural Basis of Behavior 144
12. Learning and Memory:
Donald Hebb, Brenda Milner, and H. M. 160
13. Neurology: Foundations of Brain Imaging 176
14. Neurosurgery: From Cushing to Penfield 193
15. Neuropsychiatry: The Breakthrough
in Psychopharmacology 206
16. Theoretical Neuroscience:
The Brain as a Computer and the Computer as a Brain 218
17. Summing Up 233
Appendix A: Resources 237
Appendix B: Supporting Material Available on the Web 239
References 243
Index 273

Creating Modern Neuroscience: The Revolutionary 1950s 1st Edition – Chapter 1

Introduction: Why Study History? Why the 1940s and 1950s?

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, in general, and the human brain, in particular. For neuroscience to mature as a discipline, it needs an understanding of its historical origins and development. This is a unique challenge in the history of science. It is not one discipline but many, spanning virtually every field of learning, from physics and chemistry to psychology and sociology to philosophy, politics, and religion.

The history must therefore embrace many disciplines. It must include all species, not just a few model species. It must involve all nervous systems and their adaptations during evolution. It must involve all hierarchical levels of organization in those systems, from the single molecule to the most complex psychological states.

Here, we review the origin and development of our knowledge across all these areas in order to understand the nature of the key discoveries and how they are the products of the people, the technical means, and the creative process that drove them.

We also consider the ethical issues in the competition between leaders in the fields and how this has enhanced as well as distorted the advances. All of these facets constitute the foundations of our
modern understanding of the nature of the brain and human existence and define the core concepts behind much of the research carried out today.

Many surprises are in store, not least the fact that modern neuroscience has much of its origins in the mid-twentieth century, especially the 1950s. Neuroscience embraces all of the scientific disciplines which contribute to revealing the mechanisms of the nervous system and their role in behavior.

The last half of the twentieth century saw the rise of what we now recognize to be the modern era, when the full arsenal of experimental and theoretical methods available to biologists could be applied to this most complex of all the body organs. The mid-twentieth century is therefore a critical starting point for understanding the foundations of modern neuroscience.

Why Study History?

With so many challenges of modern research one may wonder why anyone would divert time to exploring these origins. Indeed, the opportunities for developing and applying the new methods have been so exciting, so allabsorbing, that it has led to an increasing tendency for today’s neuroscientists to focus on the present and reject the past as irrelevant—the past rendered
obsolete by the latest new method, the past that is not digitally accessible.

This is a mistake on several counts. It ignores Newton’s dictum, that we stand on the shoulders of giants. It magnifies any new advance, however trivial. It encourages a drift from doing paradigm-shifting scholarly science to doing incremental technical or commercial development. An exclusive focus on the present deprives us of insights into the fundamental nature of the creative process in science. A historical perspective provides an education in how scientists are able to push past the limits of current concepts in order to fashion a newand more comprehensive understanding of the laws of nature.

The 1950s was particularly rich in those examples. This book will therefore use this period as a laboratory for understanding the creative process in one of its most productive eras. Finally, modern neuroscientists increasingly deplore the mass of data that engulfs us without giving the understanding we seek. A better perspective on the origins of our current concepts, their strengths and their limitations, can be a powerful aid in advancing toward that understanding…..

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