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The Computational Brain (Computational Neuroscience) Paperback – February 3, 1994
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The authors have successfully integrated a number of diverse disciplines into a coherent picture of the field. The Computational Brain is a major contribution.(Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computer Science, California Institute of Technology)
The Computational Brain describes the new style of brain-like computation, based on neural nets, as it applies to biological systems. It is written in a lively, readable style, assisted by many illustrations, yet it does not evade the many intellectual and computational problems involved. It is unique in viewing the subject from such a wide perspective while presenting detailed examples to illustrate the present state of the art. I strongly recommend it to all those interested in how nervous systems work, including the behavior of our own brain.(Francis Crick, The Salk Institute)
There is no equivalent to The Computational Brain -- a unique synthesis of the fast expanding field of neural model. A rewarding experience to read.(J.P. Changeux, Institut Pasteur)
The Computational Brain documents a revolution now occurring in the neurosciences. For the past two centuries, the mainstream approach to brain and behavior has been biomedical, usurped from philosophers first by nineteenth-century neurologists, then by psychiatrists and behavioral psychologists, and now by neuropharmacologists and by cell and molecular biologists. Since the publication of Rumelhart and McClelland's Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition in 1986, the current is slowly turning back to epistomologists whose central paradigm is communications and information processing. The Computational Brain presents contemporary neuroscience panoramically from this revolutionary point of view. It is essential reading for anyone interested in neuroscience, which has been called the last frontier of biology, not only because it explains the relevance of computation to neurobiology with extraordinary clarity, but also because the book shows unambiguously that both frontier and center are moving.(James H. Schwartz, MD, PhD, Center for Neurobiology & Behavior, Columbia University)
This attractive and well-illustrated volume falls somewhere between a trade book and a textbook, with a style well suited for the Scientific American reader, as well as the active scientist, who may know something of either computer science or neuroscience but welcomes a crisp narrative that includes the necessary background from each discipline.... The reader will be well rewarded who seeks to understand, from well-chosen examples, how to merge the analysis of neuroscientific data with the developments of computational principles.(Michael A. Arbib Science)
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The underlying theme in the book is to explain emergent properties as "high-level" effects that are dependent on "lower-level" phenomena, hence rejecting the thesis that they are "nomologically autonomous", i.e. that such a dependence cannot be done and is outside the domain of science. The science in this book recognizes its historical origins, and it is clear that the authors will not accept explanations of the mind/brain that do not involve scientific experimentation and analysis.Read more ›
Leaving aside downsides arising from recent discoveries that the authors could not have anticipated, the book can be frustrating to read at times. In particular, there is a tendency to introduce technical concepts and descriptors into accounts without prior definition. For example, very early on in a brief account of monkey vision there is mention of V4, MT, etc. The terms are neither defined nor explained. Strangely, in the introduction to networks, the inner product of two vectors is explained while the outer product is not. Small points but the oversight recurs.
The philosophical content in the book is light, but the assumptions driving the work are among the most contentious. There is no point reaming off a list but the book does not shirk supporing the brain-as-a-computer hypothesis.
All in all a stimulating work, if in need of updating.
For students of neuroscience, computer science and psychology this book is extremely important, because it gives you the necessary fundamentals of this field(namely computational neuroscience) so you can get to more advanced levels easily.
Understanding the book will need some background in higher mathematics (differential calculus).
In order to wade through all of this book, one must first know enough to be able to fill in the very large gaps, and to bridge the discontinuities. I think that at least half of the technical terms were not defined at all. I felt it was a bit like picking up the proceedings of a research conference. One does not expect continuity in conference proceedings; nor does one expect everything to be defined. But generally in a book, one does expect definitions and continuity. The authors have given copious references parenthetically in the text, and background reading suggestions at the end of each chapter. But footnotes with definitions of terms would have been more useful. If one needs to look up too many things, one may as well read a different book. (Of course, there is a substantial bibliography at the end of the book also.)
Still, it's good for those who are curious about the neurosciences to be thrown in at the deep end to read some snippets about the functional hierarchy of the brain, the basic facts in each level of the hierarchy, the functional capabilities and interrelationships between regions and sub-regions of the brain, numerous specific mechanisms for transmitting information from one part of the brain to another, numerous methods of encoding sensory inputs for transmission within the brain, some intriguing functions of the hippocampus, and the coupling between sensory inputs and motor outputs.Read more ›
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Patricia Smith Churchland (born 1943) is a Canadian-American philosopher and Professor of Philosophy Emerita at the University of California, San Diego. Read morePublished on May 28, 2013 by Steven H Propp