In his latest book, David Bainbridge combines an otherworldly journey through the central nervous system with an accessible and entertaining account of how the brain's anatomy has often misled anatomists about its function. Bainbridge uses the structure of the brain to set his book apart from the many volumes that focus on brain function. He shows that for hundreds of years, natural philosophers have been interested in the gray matter inside our skulls, but all they had to go on was its structure. Almost every knob, protrusion, canal, and crease was named before anyone had an inkling of what it did--a kind of biological terra incognita with many weird and wonderful names: the zonules of Zinn, the obex ("the most Scrabble-friendly word in all of neuroanatomy"), the aqueduct of Sylvius, the tract of Goll.
This uniquely accessible approach lays out what is known about the brain (its structure), what we can hope to know (its function), and what we may never know (its evolution). Along the way Bainbridge tells lots of wonderful stories about the "two pounds of blancmange" within our skulls, and tells them all with wit and style.
In this "geographical tour" of the nervous system, readers will find an entertaining and enlightening history of neuroscience and a look at the anatomy of the brain...The book's relaxed pace, interesting tangents and broad coverage make this book eminently suitable for anyone curious about the brain.
[A] wonderful exploration of the brain and central nervous system...Writing in prose that is precise, descriptive, and engaging, [Bainbridge] offers vibrant depictions of neuroscientists' discoveries and the brain's evolution. Moving from structure and evolution to the senses, engineering, and wiring of the brain, the author eloquently describes the functioning of the central nervous system and then briefly examines the connections between the brain and the mind, along with more esoteric functions such as memory and consciousness.
Absorbing...[Bainbridge's] witty journey from spinal cord through brain stem to cerebral cortex, ending with a cautious chapter on the "deceitful spectre" of consciousness, is unashamedly personal...Despite the complexity of the human brain, Bainbridge seeks to convince the non-specialist that it is, in fact, "simpler than you might have thought."...Highly informative and historically minded.
This book does an excellent job of introducing the layout of the brain in an easily digestible form through describing the history of its discovery while celebrating quirkiness in its nomenclature and the eccentricities of early anatomists...This book is enjoyable to read and provides an excellent contribution to making some of the apparently bizarre structure and functioning of the brain accessible to the lay reader. All neuroscientists should also welcome it: as a teacher of neuroanatomy for many years I certainly read it with pleasure.
David Bainbridge is establishing a reputation for clear, popular science writing, laced with imaginative flair and good humor, plus the essential skill of good storytelling. It is a reputation this book is likely to enhance...Presented as a journey through the "geography" of brain and nervous system, the book introduces its lay readers to a phantasmagoria of exotically named parts, from the Tolkienesque tract of Goll to the canal of Schlemm, Varolio's bridge and a host more.
With great good humor, anatomist Bainbridge conducts a tour up the spinal cord to the cerebral cortex, en route covering, in succession, embryonic brain development, the structuring of the senses, and the workings of the mind. A tour de force of popular science writing.
- Harvard University Press
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