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The Brain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Michael O'Shea
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Dec 2005 Very Short Introductions
How does the brain work? How different is a human brain from other creatures' brains? Is the human brain still evolving?

In this fascinating book, Michael O'Shea provides a non-technical introduction to the main issues and findings in current brain research, and gives a sense of how neuroscience addresses questions about the relationship between the brain and the mind. Chapters tackle subjects such as brain processes, perception, memory, motor control and the causes of 'altered mental states'. A final section discusses possible future developments in neuroscience, touching on artificial intelligence, gene therapy, the importance of the Human Genome Project, drugs by design, and transplants.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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The Brain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Memory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 Dec 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853929
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Review

'O'Shea writes with real enthusiasm.' (The Guardian)

About the Author


Michael O'Shea is Director of the Sussex Center for Neuroscience.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Think for a few moments about a very special machine, your brain - an organ of just 1.2 kg, containing one hundred billion nerve cells, none of which alone has any idea who or what you are. Read the first page
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Concordance
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"...after all, the brain is stupendously complicated." O'Shea breaks up his Introduction into chapters on the history of brain studies, the workings of an individual neuron, the brain as a whole (each region's functions), sense and perception, memory creation and, finally, AI and bionics. Despite some parts getting a bit down and dirty with those damn `facts of the matter', O'Shea manages to write a pretty engaging book, as a whole.
Whilst some sentences, like:
"Ionotropic receptors mediate a direct and rapid coupling between neurotransmitter binding and the generation of a brief electrical signal in the post-synaptic neuron",
for example, can make simple fools like me say `eep', I say to you DON'T WORRY, FOOLS!, they are few and far between and happily compensated for with gems such as:
"Astonishingly, when I saw this demonstrated recently, about half the audience completely failed to notice the gorilla."
And again:
"One of the neurons responded when seven quite different pictures of the same actress, Jennifer Aniston, were shown; yet in an extraordinary display of selectivity and discrimination the same neuron did not respond to pictures of Jennifer with her then husband Brad Pitt."
Thankfully, O'Shea litters the book with just such little hooks. The letter-jumbling above is one example, the best though are the web-links like the `invisible gorilla' (unbelievable) and the McGurk effect. Pick them up as you read and they're like helpful extras which break up the prose and make it all a lot more like fun. I get the impression this book could have been soooooo boring in the wrong hands, but the man did good. If you're curious about the brain, this is a definite yes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction 5 April 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is one of the best books in the VSI series, and I've read well over thirty by now. It gives a very good introduction to the basic neuroanatomy of the brain, and explains many important brain functions. The book is intended for laypeople, but even those (like me) who are familiar with the subject can benefit from reading it. Oftentimes neuroscience textbook overwhelm with details, and it is sometimes hard to see the forest from the trees. This book provides a good bird's eye perspective on the field, and its many references and recommended books make it a valuable reference. Very importantly, the book is up to date in some of the more recent discoveries, including some current controversies like grandma neuron, the idea that the brain has a neuron devoted just for recognizing each family member.

A good, well written and well organized book. I highly recommend it.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brainy introduction, but not picture perfect 16 Oct 2007
By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
O'Shea's book provides a very broad overview of the structure and function of the most complex object known to Man. The biochemical and physical interactions of neurons, the formation of memory, brain-machine interaction, and a range of other topics, are all touched upon in a readable and informative manner, pitched at the level of an intelligent beginner, and requiring just an elementary grasp of physics and chemistry. The book has one significant shortcoming: Most of the illustrations are copied from other publications, and are a poor match with the text. For example, on page 45 there is a diagram illustrating avoidance behaviour in unicellular animals, a simple concept not requiring a diagram, let alone one that occupies almost an entire page and contains labels that are not referenced in the text. Yet when we come to the discussion of the large-scale structure of the human brain, in Chapter 4, which cries out for a detailed diagram, there is none. I was reduced to finding one online, to refer to as I read the text. I agonized long and hard about whether to deduct a star, because I do recommend this book, but in the end I decided I had to. I hope OUP reissue it with more relevant illustrations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tough Start but Persevere 2 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback
I am a physicist with no prior knowledge of biochemistry or anything much to do with the brain. I read the first three chapters twice and couldn't really get to grips with what was being described. However for those intelligent laypeople like me I say persevere. The later chapters are a delight. They are accessible and informative and generally fascinating.
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