Book editions Updated to 2018
Neuroscience Notes eBook

Neuroscience Notes eBook

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Neuroscience Notes eBook

Neuroscience Notes eBook

Neuroscience Notes places the human brain at the center of the universe. Everyone needs to know something about neuroscience. Neuroscience notes will give the intelligent reader and understanding of how the brain actually works.

Neuroscience is the broad inquiry into the structure and function of animal nervous systems. Nervous systems allow organisms to sense, decide, act and remember. Recurrent patterns of behavior in human societies reveal innate tendencies. Similarities in emotional expressions in animal and humans reveal innate tendencies. Brain function has evolved conservatively so that old features of the reptilian brain remain intact in modern humans and the best new features such as detailed, declarative languages have evolved naturally by the elaboration of older communication systems shared by many animals. The more cognition is studied in other animals, the more obvious it is that most "thinking" is nonverbal and is well distributed in nature. We have to assume that at some level or other, dinosaurs were thoughtful.

Other animals may not think in the same way humans do and no other animals rely on language, but all animals communicate using different strategies for encoding and decoding information. Most animals are specialized for specific environments and, if we competed on their turf, they could probably beat us in many ways. The mind of a Bonobo, chimpanzee and gorilla exists in our mind; we have some modifications and a few added features. Old programs include some of our most negative qualities such as predatory and territorial aggression and anger. Some of our most positive qualities are also innate such as the tendency to bond, care for infants and form cooperative social units with altruistic features. The old brain remains in control of our bodies and often controls our minds.

Preface to Neuroscience Notes

Humans are complex, unstable creatures who are always changing. At the source of prolific variations in group and individual expressions is a collection of abilities and tendencies that we call Human Nature. There are too many collections of knowledge and too many disciplines that claim ownership of human nature for one person to master all, so that anyone who aspires to understand human nature will need to be selective, retaining only the best insights that each selection has to offer. Humans can make sense of things going on out there, but humans also have a remarkable ability to generate nonsense. The study of human nonsense may turn out to be more important to human survival that the study of best case cognitive abilities.

In this book, I have selected topics that are representative of neuroscience inquiry, retaining brief references to a larger context that includes the study of neurology, anthropology, paleontology, computer science and philosophy. There have been several attempts to develop a theory of brain function that incorporates a large collection of observations, experimental results and a growing understanding of the innate features of human nature. I doubt that a single theory is a realistic goal and suggest that the real goal is the integration of knowledge from diverse disciplines into a comprehensive understanding of who we are and why we are they way we are. I encourage the reader to join me and continue his or her inquiry into the human mind by reading other books in this series.

Author Stephen Gislason MD

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