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Towards a Theoretical Neuroscience: from Cell Chemistry to Cognition
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Main description:

The book explains how to understand cognition in terms of brain anatomy, physiology and chemistry, using an approach adapted from techniques for understanding complex electronic systems. These techniques create hierarchies of information process based descriptions on different levels of detail, where higher levels contain less information and can therefore describe complete cognitive phenomena, but are more approximate. The nature of the approximations are well understood, and more approximate higher level descriptions can therefore be mapped to more precise detailed descriptions of any part of a phenomenon as required. Cognitive phenomena, the anatomy and connectivity of major brain structures, neuron physiology, and cellular chemistry are reviewed. Various cognitive tasks are described in terms of information processes performed by different major anatomical structures. These higher level descriptions are selectively mapped to more detailed physiological and chemical levels.


Reviews of current knowledge in major areas of psychology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemistry

Review of theoretical constraints on brain architecture imposed by natural selection

Understanding of memory, attention and complex cognitive phenomena in terms of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemistry

Back cover:

An effective theoretical neuroscience must deliver an accurate, comprehensible and intuitively satisfying understanding of higher cognition in terms of anatomy, neuron physiology and neurochemistry. Massive simulations of assemblies of relatively realistic neurons do not necessarily contribute to understanding, because such simulations can be just one more complex system that is not understood in any satisfying way. Collection of extensive data on the connectivity of the brain may also contribute little to understanding in the absence of an effective theoretical framework.

Beginning in the 1980s, some extremely complex electronic systems have been created. Each such system required thousands of man years of design effort and utilises many billions of transistors. These systems are understood by human beings. Although there are minimal direct resemblances between such electronic systems and the brain, the techniques for achieving electronic system understanding can be adapted to create the framework for an effective neuroscience. This book describes how these techniques are applied to understanding the brain. From 1969 to 1999 the author worked on many aspects of the design and manufacturing of complex electronic systems. Since 1982, he has been active in the creation of a theoretical neuroscience framework.

The book covers the following areas:

-The nature of scientific understanding and ways to achieve it
-Key topics in psychology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemistry
-Theoretical constraints on brain architecture and appearance of those constraints in the human brain
-How the architectural constraints make it possible to map between descriptions of brain activity on different levels of detail
-Understanding of attention, semantic and episodic memory, procedural and working memory in terms of anatomy, neuron physiology and neurochemistry
-Understanding of complex cognitive phenomena including speech, prospective memory, consciousness and self awareness.



1. The nature of scientific understanding

1.1 Understanding in the physical sciences
1.2 Complex physical systems and chaotic behaviour
1.3 Complex control systems
1.4 The brain and hierarchies of description
1.5 The basis for understanding the brain
1.6 Computer modelling and its limitations
1.7 Plan of the book 

2. Higher Cognition

2.1 Attention
2.2 Memory
2.3 Speech
2.4 Arithmetic
2.5 Face Recognition
2.6 Emotions
2.7 Hobbies and intellectual disciplines
2.8 Tool Making
2.9 Consciousness and self awareness.
2.10 Individual Differences and Complex society
2.11 Art, music and literature
2.12 Higher cognition and the brain

3. Brain Anatomy

3.1 Major anatomical structures of the brain
3.2 Roles of major anatomical structures
3.3 Neurons, axons, dendrites and synapses
3.4 Ion pumps
3.5 Ion channels
3.6 Synapses and their response to an incoming action potential
3.7 Dendrite branches integrating action potentials arriving at synapses
3.8 Generation of output action potentials
3.9 Different types of neurotransmitter
3.10 Flow of information between neurons
3.11 Electrical Activity of the Brain
3.12 Descriptive Gaps

4. Neuron Physiology

4.1 Neuron morphology and general electrical properties
4.2 Molecules embedded in the neuron membrane4.3 Electrochemical signals within and between neurons
4.4 Synapses and synaptic strengths
4.5 Specific molecules
4.6 Chemicals and information processing

5. Intracellular message chains

5.1 Gene expression
5.2 Kinase cascades
5.3 Neuron processes
5.4 Multiple paths contribute to any neuron behaviour

6. Major Anatomical Structures

6.1 Sources of information
6.2 High level structure of the human brain
6.3 The Cortex
6.4 The thalamus
6.5 The basal ganglia
6.6 The amygdala
6.7 The hypothalamus and pituitary gland
6.8 Habenula
6.9 Cerebellum
6.10 Basal forebrain
6.11 Neurotransmitter distribution systems
6.12 The hippocampal system
6.13 Relating structure and function 

7. Constraints on the physical architecture of the brain

7.1 Conditions and behaviours
7.2 Practical requirements
7.3 Behavioural meanings of condition detections and exchanges
7.4 Pressures on the definition of modules
7.5 Hierarchy of modules and hierarchy of descriptions
7.6 Sharing of resources across the processing of different input states
7.7 Integration of module inputs on different levels of detail
7.8 Limitations to receptive field changes
7.9 Entanglement of condition definition and detection
7.10 Corollaries of receptive field consistency
7.11 Modulation of total receptive field detection
7.12 Development of a modular hierarchy
7.13 Cascades of condition definition/detection
7.14 Associations between receptive fields and behaviours
7.15 Types of behaviour
7.16 Structure of competition
7.17 Modulation of behaviour type
7.18 Management of frequent action sequences
7.19 Identification of provisional connections
7.20 Practical requirements and architectural constraints 

8. Appearance of architectural constraints in the brain

8.1 Brain structures and information processes
8.2 Information model for the cortex
8.3 Information model for the thalamus
8.4 Information model for the basal ganglia
8.5 Information model for the amygdala and hypothalamus
8.6 Information model for the hippocampal system
8.7 Information model for the basal forebrain
8.8 Information model for the cerebellum
8.9 Information model for the neurotransmitter distribution systems
8.10 Application of information models  

9. Memory and the organisation of experience

9.1 Organisation of experience into similarity circumstances
9.2 Detection of similarity circumstances
9.3 Semantic memory
9.4 Priming memory
9.5 Episodic memory
9.6 Procedural memory
9.7 Hierarchies of description

10. Attention and working memory

10.1 Attention
10.2 Working memory10.3 Condition definition/detection resource sharing by frequency modulation 

11. Understanding complex cognitive phenomena

11.1 Imagined situations and false memories
11.2 Familiarity and deja vu
11.3 Prospective memory
11.4 Speech processing
11.5 Cognitive deficits following brain damage
11.6 Consciousness and self awareness
11.7 Literature, music and art

12. Towards a Theoretical Neuroscience



ISBN-13: 9789400771079
Publisher: Springer (Springer Netherlands)
Publication date: September, 2013
Pages: 290

Subcategories: General Issues, Neurology, Neuroscience