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Only OK and Nothing like the Original by Kuffler and Nicholls
on March 17, 2014
When Stephen Kuffler and John Nicholls wrote the first edition of FROM NEURON TO BRAIN, published in 1976, it was a landmark text that belonged on the shelf of every neurophysiologist. It was a great piece of work - readable, elegant and relatively compact. The current edition, the 5th, is, alas, completely re-written and is a greatly expanded and far less impressive text than the first edition. Rather than concentrating most of its pages on basic neurophysiology, the 5th edition attempts to be a more general neuroscience text, covering considerably more pharmacology, systems neuroscience and behavior than the original.
The inclusion of the latter is not bad, but in this edition, that lists 6 authors on the cover, I think it it is a case of "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The organization of the chapters, particularly in the first half of the book is all over the place. Not only that, within single chapters there are far too many references, both forward and backward, to explanations in other chapters in the book. In various places, there is either too much or too little detail. Some of the figure legends will be next to impossible for anyone other than an experienced neuroscientist to understand (e.g., Fig. 14.6). One gets the feeling that there was no one person who's job it was to read the entire book in sequence and smooth out the irregularities and contiguity problems. In general, the text has been simplified compared to the Kuffler and Nicholls original, and I cannot imagine actually following the sequence of chapters as presently organized in either a graduate or undergraduate general neuroscience course or a neurophysiology course
Whereas I use earlier editions as core readings for an advanced graduate level course called "Cellular Neurophysiology", there is nothing in this current edition that is worth assigning instead of the chapters in the earlier editions. The book still contains a wealth of excellent information on neuroscience, but I am not sure what the target audience is. It does not contain enough specifics for a graduate level neurophysiology course. For that I would refer the reader to FOUNDATIONS OF CELLULAR NEUROPHYSIOLOGY by Johnston and Wu, and/or THE SYNAPTIC ORGANIZATION OF THE BRAIN by Shepherd and/or IONIC CHANNELS OF EXCITABLE MEMBRANES by Hille. Each of these texts differs greatly in style, but each gives the reader much more detailed information.
ps (11/13/14) I edited the review today, after using the text for the first semester of our year-long Foundations course required of all first year students. I added some more specific complaints and reduced my rating from 3 stars to 2 stars.