Brain Facts – A Primer On The Brain And Nervous System
The free 96 page book (pdf download) is available here.
From the Preface:
Over the past two decades, scientific knowledge about the structure and function of the brain and nervous system and understanding of brain-based disorders have increased exponentially. Neuroscientists are using remarkable new tools and technologies to learn how the brain controls and responds to the body, drives behavior, and forms the foundation for the mind. Research is also essential for the development of therapies for more than 1,000 nervous system disorders that affect more than 1 billion people worldwide.
As these strides occur, it is crucial that scientists communicate with the general public, helping students, teacher, parents, medical caregivers, policymakers, and others stay informed of developments in neuroscience. In particular, students — the scientists, policymakers and scientifically literate citizens of the future — need access to clear, easy-to-use information on this important topic.
And from the Introduction:
THE HUMAN BRAIN — a spongy, three- pound mass of tissue — is the most complex living structure in the universe. With the capacity to create a network of connections that far surpasses any social network and stores more information than a supercomputer, the brain has enabled humans to achieve breathtaking milestones — walking on the moon, mapping the human genome, and composing masterpieces of literature, art, and music. What’s more, scientists still have not uncovered the extent of what the brain can do. This single organ controls every aspect of our body, ranging from heart rate and sexual activity to emotion, learning, and memory. The brain controls the immune system’s response to disease, and determines, in part, how well people respond to medical treatments. Ultimately, it shapes our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and imaginations. It is the ability of the brain to perform all of these functions that makes us human.
Why does this subject area interest me particularly?
One reason is that neuroscience is becomingly increasingly important on a practical level – I’m reading more and more about ‘neuroscience studies show/suggest that…’ a whole host of things, many of which have direct applications to business.
The other reason is a bit more personal.
When I finished my undergraduate degree in theoretical physics, the Head of Department recommended I get into the (slowly emerging) field of neuroscience rather than particle physics. I ignored this advice – I couldn’t see much connection between what I’d been doing and what he suggested and particle physics sounded infinitely more sexy and interesting!
I then successfully carried out research in particle physics for about 15 years (before moving to the commercial sector) but always wondered if he was right! There’s obviously no simple yes/no but what is now ‘neuroscience’ would certainly (in hindsight) have been a tantalising choice.