Understanding the Brain: From Cells to Behavior to Cognition
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.
Praise for Understanding the Brain: From Cells to Behavior to Cognition
[O]ffers a comprehensive look at how the brain functions. . . . From the source of emotions to the possible absence of mirror neurons in people with autism, Dowling’s book is a marvelous and fascinating journey through the human brain.
— Psych Central
I began Dowling’s book thinking I’d skim the early chapters and move on quickly to the sexy topics of memory and consciousness. But Understanding the Brain is so beautifully written, the story of how the brain is constructed from billions of cells so awe inspiring, that I started on page 1 and read every word. A perfect book for students trying to decide whether to major in neuroscience or for anyone who simply wants to know how nature constructs a thinking, feeling, human brain. The clarity of Dowling’s writing allows the reader to sail through the more challenging sections without losing sight of the big picture or the humbling, jaw-dropping, almost inconceivable genius, of nature.
— Nancy Hopkins, Amgen Inc Professor of Biology Emerita, MIT
For those interested in the brain-mind problem, this phenomenally broad-reaching book lucidly describes our current understanding of how the brain serves as the messenger to the mind. A master storyteller, Professor Dowling has taught this, "the hard problem," to Harvard freshmen for decades and herein offers his wisdom for all.
— Thomas N. Byrne, MD, professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School; senior lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Understanding the Brain is not only an instant classic among neuroscience texts, but also makes compelling reading. Drawing on lessons learned from the eye of a horseshoe crab and from surrealist film maker Luis Bunuel, Dowling tells the story of how the molecular machinery of the human brain assembled our mind and how our minds beget reason, dreams and the imagination.
— Gerald Weissmann, MD, Research Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Book Review Editor, The FASEB Journal
Only a rare talent could demystify the complexity of the brain in sentences available to all readers without sacrificing the details that accuracy requires. John Dowling has written the best summary for those outside neuroscience who want to know the current understanding of the brain and its relation to mind.
— Jerome Kagan, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
Understanding the Brain delivers a great review of the neurobiology, systems, and frontiers of cognitive neuroscience…. Dowling is a master teacher, having collected quips, stories, and illustrations over 30 years…. You can see why freshmen could be captivated by these illustrations of the complex physiology of the synapse. And for the practitioner, Dowling provides teaching stories for our clinical encounters…. I recommend this book to physicians interested in the brain, and in thinking about thinking, as it provides a rich review that we might leverage for our patients, and our own aging and dynamic brains and minds.
— Family Medicine
Dowling has taught neuroscience to various types of students over many years, and in the course of this teaching, he has learned what things are easy and hard to understand, what students find interesting and boring, and how to explain brain function at different levels of detail...We can be grateful that there are neuroscientists such as Dowling who so engagingly bring their mastery of the subject to a broader readership.
— The FASEB Journal
I would recommend this book to residents, psychiatrists, and general practitioners, as well as to individuals new to neuroscience...He keeps the material relevant and the reader engaged while providing a great overview.
— Journal of Psychiatric Practice
A perfect introduction for anyone who comes to the brain with little background in brain science and who wants to have a meaningful understanding of how the brain works...At the same time, the book is highly informative, so that those who know about the nervous system will also enjoy reading it and will learn from it. It is written with enormous clarity and precision...a must-read.
— Eric Kandel, Columbia University, Dept. of Neuroscience - American Journal of Psychology