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The Synaptic Organization of the Brain [Paperback]

by Gordon M. Shepherd
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 6, 2003 019515956X 978-0195159561 5
It is widely recognized that the neural basis of brain function can be fully understood only by integrating many disciplines at many levels. Studies of synaptic organization are bringing about a quiet revolution in achieving this goal, as documented by this unique book over the past 30 years. In this fifth edition, the results of the mouse and human genome projects are incorporated for the first time. Molecular biologists interested in functional genomics and proteomics of the brain will find answers here to the critical questions: what are the cell and circuit functions of gene products? Also for the first time, the reader is oriented to supporting neuroscience databases. Among the new advances covered are 2-photon confocal laser microscopy of dendrites and dendritic spines, biochemical analyses, and dual patch and multielectrode recordings, applied together with an increasing range of behavioral and gene-targeting methods. Leading experts in the best understood brain regions bring together the molecular, anatomical, functional, and behavioral data in authoritative integrated accounts. The chapters are organized in the same format, covering the neural elements, synaptic connections, basic circuits, physiology, neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, membrane properties, dendritic properties, and with a final section on how the circuits mediate specific behaviors. The uniform framework for each chapter enables the authors to higlight the principles that are common to all regions, as well as the adaptations unique to each, thus serving as a model for understanding the neural basis of behavior.

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Editorial Reviews


From reviews of previous editions:

"This is...a reference textbook that has served generations of neuroscientists at all levels of their career for a quarter century. It is like a wise and trusted mentor, who is always there for you...The marvel of the book in all editions is how much information is packed into such a small number of pages, yet it is comprehensible...any college or university instructor who teaches neurobiology ought to read this book, for it provides a depth of knowledge and perspective that cannot be gained from a (bad) strategy of knowing the course textbook cold and staying a few chapters ahead of one's students."--Contemporary Psychology

"The book remains a staple, and should be on the shelf of any serious neuroscientist."--The Quarterly Review of Biology

"By any measure this work is a classic...It will undoubtedly take its place as one of the most significant and comprehensive commentaries of our time on structure and function of nervous tissue."--Electrocephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology

"This well-organized volume clearly summarizes knowledge of neuronal interaction in several brain regions and assimilates new findings to the classical view of neuron communication."--Journal of the American Medical Association

About the Author

Gordon M. Shepherd is at Yale University School of Medicine.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 5 edition (November 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019515956X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195159561
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for serious neuroscientists September 24, 2000
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This book is arguably the most fundamental and important book in the entire field of neuroscience. It's not easy reading; an unbelievable amount of information is packed into its 500-odd pages. It's also definitely NOT suitable for newcomers to the field; for them I recommend "Principles of Neural Science", Shepherd's "Neurobiology" and Johnston and Wu's "Foundations of Cellular Neurophysiology". But once you know something about the brain, you'll want to read this book very carefully to really understand the current state-of-the-art of our understanding of neural circuits. Most major brain systems are covered, and the authors are all recognized experts in their fields. People who build computer simulations of the brain (like me) will find this book to be a gold mine of useful information, and the references are a great starting point for further investigations. This is the fourth edition of this text, and it just keeps getting better and better.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic work now in its 5th edition November 4, 2005
I became acquainted with this book when I read the first edition, way back in the late 70s when I was a neuroscience grad student. I remember how impressed I was that here, for the first time really, different areas of the brain could be analyzed and compared by how the neurons wired up with each other. Later in life as a young neurologist I read through the 3rd edition, and now as a more seasoned one I've just finished reading the fifth. The book has maintained its basic organizational structure while greatly expanding its content, sometimes to the detriment of clarity being lost in the details, which is why I took off a star. The first two chapters are very helpful, with one of the best discussions of different ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors in the context of neural cell physiology I've seen. In subsequent chapters the basic circuitry of the spinal cord, cochlear nucleus, olfactory bulb, retina, cerebellum, thalamus, basal ganglia, olfactory cortex, hippocampus and cerebral cortex are discussed in similar fashion. First the neuronal elements--cell types--are defined, then the basic anatomy of the area, then the synaptic connections between different types of neurons, then the anatomy of the circuitry, then the physiology of the synaptic actions. Finally an attempt is made to relate all of these basics to how the brain area functions for the organism.

As others have pointed out, the book requires concentration to read, even to somebody with my long background. But it is rewarding to see how far the field has come in the nearly 30 years I've been studying it. It's only marginally clinically relevant for a neurologist, but for basic neuroscientists I'd consider it a must read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous book for the brain aficionado ... March 16, 2004
This is an excellent book: clear, well-organized, and well-written. It examines how groups of neurons give rise to brain functions. The introductory chapter lays the groundwork, going over basic theories of how groups of cells perform computations and what mechanisms they use to do it. Subsequent chapters stand alone, each with a focus on a particular brain region (hippocampus, basal ganglia, cortex, thalamus, retina, etc.).
I agree with an earlier reviewer: this book is not for the uninitiated, although it is spectacularly helpful for theoretical neuroscientists who are modeling cell assemblies as well as experimentalists working at the cell or systems level. However, I disagree with his list of good introductory books. "Principles of Neural Science" in particular is a good reference but not terribly readable. I would recommend Nicholls' "From Neuron to Brain" as a more accessible book about brain function. The Scientific American series, including "The Scientific American Book of the Brain," is quite good factually and provides a more general overview including some psychology, but the quality of the writing varies. Finally, for kicks, a newcomer should try the enjoyable, controversial "How the Mind Works" by Stephen Pinker. He is biased and arrogant, but also clever and entertaining.
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The book is excellent, is basic for neurology, neurobiologist and senior. I belived is a classic text.
Dr. Gerardo Ramírez Samayoa
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book and very good service July 16, 2013
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I am preparing the notes for my lectures and this book contains valuable material.
From this book I have learned that synapsis should be considered as a very important aspect in teh design of modern brains.
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What I like about this book is its attempt to try to systematize the common patterns of synaptic connectivity within the nervous system. My interest in this work began from studying Carver Mead's "Analog VLSI and Neural System" and its endless references.

Don't expect the general theory of all neuroscience. However that should not dissuade you from diving deep into this work. I've only read the first chapter but it was beautiful to see Shepherd's comparison of olfactory and retinal systems and finding the common themes.

Definitely a superb source for engineers that seek neural inspiration for their grand ideas on sensing , processing, and understanding. Learn from nature and go beyond it!
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