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Neuroscience - The Science of Brain

Neuroscience - The Science of Brain

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NEUROSCIENCE
SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN
AN INTRODUCTION FOR YOUNG STUDENTS
British Neuroscience AssociationEuropean Dana Alliance for the Brain
 
This booklet was prepared and edited on behalf of the British Neuroscience Association and the European Dana Alliance forthe Brain by Richard Morris (University of Edinburgh) and Marianne Fillenz (University of Oxford). The graphic design was byJane Grainger (Grainger Dunsmore Design Studio, Edinburgh). We are grateful for contributions from our colleagues in theDivision of Neuroscience, particularly Victoria Gill, and others in the neuroscience community in Edinburgh. We also thankmembers of the University Department of Physiology in Oxford, particularly Colin Blakemore, and helpful colleagues in otherinstitutions. Their names are listed on the back page.The British Neuroscience Association (BNA)is the professional body in the United Kingdom that representsneuroscientists and is dedicated towards a better understanding of the nervous system in health and disease.Its members range from established scientists holding positions in Universities and Research Institutes through topostgraduate students. The BNA’s annual meetings, generally held in the spring, provide a forum for the presentation of thelatest research. Numerous local groups around the country hold frequent seminars and these groups often organiseactivities with the general public such as school visits and exhibitions in local museums. Seehttp://www.bna.org.uk/forfurther information.The goal of TheEuropean Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB)is to inform the general public and decision makers about theimportance of brain research. EDAB aims to advance knowledge about the personal and public benefits of neuroscience andto disseminate information on the brain, in health and disease, in an accessible and relevant way. Neurological andpsychiatric disorders affect millions of people of all ages and make a severe impact on the national economy. To helpovercome these problems, in 1997, 70 leading European neuroscientists signed a Declaration of Achievable Research Goalsand made a commitment to increase awareness of brain disorders and of the importance of neuroscience. Since then, manyothers have been elected, representing 24 European countries. EDAB has more than 125 members.Seehttp://www.edab.net/for further information.The images on this page are of neurons of the cerebral cortex visualised using special dyes inserted into the adjacent cells.
Published by The British Neuroscience AssociationThe Sherrington BuildingsAshton StreetLiverpoolL69 3GEUKCopyright British Neuroscience Association 2003This book is in copyright. Subject to statutoryexception and the provisions of relevant collectivelicensing agreements, no reproduction of any partmay take place without the written permission of The British Neuroscience AssociationFirst Published 2003ISBN: 0-9545204--0-8
 
Neuroscience: the Science of the Brain
Inside our heads, weighing about 1.5 kg, is an astonishing living organ consisting of billions of tiny cells. It enables us to sense the world around us, to think and to talk.The human brain is the most complex organ of the body, and arguably the mostcomplex thing on earth. This booklet is an introduction for young students.In this booklet, we describe what we know about how the brain works and how muchthere still is to learn. Its study involves scientists and medical doctors from manydisciplines, ranging from molecular biology through to experimental psychology, aswell as the disciplines of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Their sharedinterest has led to a new discipline calledneuroscience - the science of the brain.The brain described in our booklet can do a lot but not everything. It has nerve cells- its building blocks - and these are connected together in networks. Thesenetworks are in a constant state of electrical and chemical activity. The brain wedescribe can see and feel. It can sense pain and its chemical tricks help control theuncomfortable effects of pain. It has several areas devoted to co-ordinating ourmovements to carry out sophisticated actions. A brain that can do these and manyother things doesn’t come fully formed: it develops gradually and we describe someof the key genes involved. When one or more of these genes goes wrong, variousconditions develop, such as dyslexia. There are similarities between how the braindevelops and the mechanisms responsible for altering the connections betweennerve cells later on - a process called neuronal plasticity. Plasticity is thought tounderlie learning and remembering. Our booklet’s brain can remember telephonenumbers and what you did last Christmas. Regrettably, particularly for a brainthat remembers family holidays, it doesn’t eat or drink. So it’s all a bit limited.But it does get stressed, as we all do, and we touch on some of the hormonal andmolecular mechanisms that can lead to extreme anxiety - such as many of us feel inthe run-up to examinations. That’s a time when sleep is important, so we let it havethe rest it needs. Sadly, it can also become diseased and injured.New techniques, such as special electrodes that can touch the surface of cells,optical imaging, human brain scanning machines, and silicon chips containingartificial brain circuits are all changing the face of modern neuroscience.We introduce these to you and touch on some of the ethical issues and socialimplications emerging from brain research.
1The Nervous System
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2Neurons and theAction Potential
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3Chemical Messengers
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 4Drugs and the Brain
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5Touch and Pain
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6Vision
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Movement
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8The Developing
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Nervous System9Dyslexia
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10Plasticity
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11Learning and Memory
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12Stress
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13The Immune System
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14Sleep
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15Brain Imaging
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16Artificial Brains and
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Neural Networks17 When things go wrong
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18Neuroethics
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19Training and Careers
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20Further Reading and
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Acknowledgements
The Neuroscience Community
at the University of Edinburgh
The EuropeanDana Alliancefor the Brain
To order additional copies: Online ordering: www.bna.org.uk/publicationsPostal: The British Neuroscience Association, c/o: The Sherrington Buildings, Ashton Street, Liverpool L68 3GETelephone: 44 (0) 151 794 4943/5449 Fax: 44 (0) 794 5516/5517 

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