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Brain Architecture: Understanding the Basic Plan (Medicine) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Brain Architecture: Understanding the Basic Plan (Medicine) 1st Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195105056
ISBN-10: 0195105052
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Editorial Reviews


"Larry Swanson, one of the great contemporary students of brain anatomy, has given us a broad overview of the structure and function of the brain using insights from embryology and from evolutionary comparison to highlight the principles that govern the anatomical substrates of behavior. This book will be read avidly by both students and practicing scientists."--Eric R. Kandel, M. D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

"Neuroanatomy is usually associated with boring memorization and dense terminology. But Swanson has brought the subject to life by focusing on the principles that underlie brain structure and function. These principles, illuminated by an historical perspective and placed in an evolutionary context, actually constitute a theory of brain. This book's logical organization, intellectual sweep, and clear writing made it a joy for me to read."--Charles F. Stevens, M.D., Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Salk Institute for Biological Sciences

"I was pleasantly surprised by the comparative and evolutionary approach used to introduce the major concepts, and I was drawn in by the historical context in which the story is told...a clearly written and logically organized overview of the major functional subdivisions of the vertebrate nervous system, accompanied by a commentary on historical views of brain function. It will be a welcome addition to the libraries of students and anyone interested in the basic organization of the brain."--Nature Neuroscience

"Brain architecture reeks of complicated neuroanatomy, an obtuse nomenclature, and little function; but Brain Architecture is different. To provide readers with an elementary knowledge of the nervous system, Larry Swanson combines a historical and a broad, comparative biological approach." --Science

"This short book deserves wide readership. It could serve both as a general introduction for the undergraduate and as a means to widen one's horizon for the experienced researcher."--Jan Voogd in Science

About the Author

Larry W. Swanson is at University of Southern California.


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Product Details

  • Series: Medicine
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195105052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195105056
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.6 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,876,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By B. Madigan on September 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this book to refresh and update what I know about brain structure so I could better understand current neuroscience findings. Overall, I am happy with the outcome.

Swanson is a recognized authority on neural structures. He writes clearly and communicates a palpable excitement as he describes fundamental insights into brain organization and function. I particularly liked the way he presents the key historic developments that led to current views. Swanson also has the expert's appreciation of where theories are solid and where contemporary understanding is seriously lacking. In fact, one important message of the book is that the field still has only a tenuous grasp of many structural details about the brain, not to mention major uncertainties about connections between structure and function.

I did not give the book the highest rating for two reasons. First, the material on the cognitive system omitted discussion of areas that are important in contemporary memory research such as the amygdala, the rhinal cortex, and the cingulate gyrus. Swanson uses different terminology to describe these and other areas, believing that the traditional terms are unnecessary and should be abandoned. While improved classification schemes are to be applauded, contemporary researchers continue to use the traditional terms. I would have liked more help to bridge the terminology disconnect.

My second complaint is that a number of terms he does use are undefined both in the text and in the skimpy glossary. This material is hard enough when you have all the definitions and descriptions.

But I want to end a positive note. The book is well written, short, focused, engaging, and helpful in understanding brain structure. Maybe that's as good as it gets for a work on neuroanatomy written for non specialists.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Watson on October 30, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book to be stimulating, informing, and very readable. Larry shows his mastery of brain organisation by distilling reams of detail into instructive paragraphs. This is one of the most interesting neuroscience books I have read. It is a must buy for graduate students in mammalian neuroscience. Congratualtions Larry!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jordi Serrats on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
As in Larry Swanson's writing is usual, he wrote an amazing book, where you will find in 200s pages an overview of the neuroanatomical knowledge that it is available nowadays. Besides, he offers an outstanding revision of the neural systems that are present from unicellular organisms to vertebrates.
In summary, in my opinion this is a very recommendable book for anyone interested in neuroscience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Harpur on September 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Often the fit between research scholarship and effective writing skills is difficult to achieve. This book is an example of that unevenness that really should be caught by a good editor. Personally I found the text educational, interesting and peppered with historical gems that some lent anecdotal dynamism to the work. However, the illustrations are largly drawn from historical works, which is quaint but not particularly helpful given modern research requirements. The diagrams in the book are uninspiring grayscale shapes. I didn't find them informative.

The book really kicks off in Chapter 4, The Basic Vertebrate Plan. Disappointingly, Swanson's potentially mouth opening discussion of four rival brain architectures is too abrupt and tails off into vagueness. Its overall tenor is not helped by very plain diagrams of their components. The upside is that he covers the evolution in historical thought very well - of interest to any historian of science. Given my needs (computational modelling) the book was very adequate but only because I had already tucked From Neuron to Brain under my belt a few months previously.

The first few chapters cover neuroembryogenesis and the theories of neural plate development. After that, the book takes off through the vertebrate brain and four main systems (behaviour, motor, cognitive and sensory). it concludes with a brief chapter on learning and damage repair. The book drives home some points clearly and simply, such as the separate development of motor and sensory ganglion cirucits. Sometimes the descriptions are clouded by the author's view that conventional descriptors in human anatomy are the wrong way round (or just plain wrong).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Wetherington on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Brain Architecture: Understanding the Basic Plan" provides an informative and easy-to-read description of the structure and function of the human brain. While this book could serve as an introductory lesson to the human brain, it is also a great refresher for anyone with prior knowledge in the field of neuroscience. I would highly recommend this book to any person with an interest in introductory neuroscience, as well as any student searching for a clear description of both the basic form and function of the human brain.

Synopsis and Opinion:

Swanson divides the book into eleven chapters, and he provides three appendices as well as a glossary at the end. Overall, Swanson outlines the cellular composition of the nervous system, spatial relationships of its basic parts, and the network arrangement of its four basic functional systems. He claims that this view and description is "classical neuroscience" (219).

Chapter 1 is an informative introduction to how the brain works, and Swanson describes three biological perspectives, which include comparative, embryological, and theoretical approaches. In this chapter, he emphasizes the importance of Aristotle's initial work in the study of the basic structural organization of the nervous system, stating that some would argue Aristotle's Historia Animalium (History of Animals) as the finest textbook of animal biology ever written.

Chapter 2 outlines simple nervous systems, starting with unicellular organisms and detailing important milestones in architecture throughout evolutionary history. This chapter allows the reader to develop both a greater appreciation for and understanding of the complexity of the current human nervous system.
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