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The Computational Brain (Computational Neuroscience) Paperback – February 3, 1994

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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)

From the Back Cover

The Computational Brain is the first unified and broadly accessible book to bring together computational concepts and behavioral data within a neurobiological framework.

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Product Details

  • Series: Computational Neuroscience Series
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Revised ed. edition (February 3, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262531208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262531207
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.3 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 13, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book can be viewed as one of the first attempts to use results from psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and philosophy with the intent of gaining an understanding of how the mind/brain works, but all of this is done within the "computational mind" paradigm. The approach taken by the authors is one of the most honest of those in the literature, for throughout the book they are careful to note just how much evidence there is to support their position(s), and to what extent further work is to done. Philosophically speaking, the authors are clearly in the materialist camp, believing that Cartesian dualism does not cohere with current scientific knowledge. But they state that materialism is not an established fact, allowing the possibility, but not the probability, that dualism may in fact be true. They reject early on though any "arguments from ignorance" in their assertion that just because neuroscience does not have an explanation of consciousness, that such an explanation is impossible. The authors call the failure to be able to think of consciousness in terms of neuronal activity "intuition dissonance", and reject completely its efficacy in establishing the truth of the nature of the mind/brain.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is an argument that this is a book of its time. It is nearly fifteen years since it was put together and a great deal of neural water has flowed under the bridge. The thematic enthusiasm for computationalism that dominates the book has not been convincingly proved in the meantime. If anything, the computational properties of models have been shown to entertain many unpleasant complexity results. Moreover, the localisation of brain functions grounded in naive interpretations of lesion effects has come under greater scrutiny due to detailed MRI results. Given twhat was known at the time, it is unsurprising that the book focuses on the visual system - a focus also found in Christof Koch's recent book. Acknowleding all that and more, it would be hard to find a better condensation of science, computationalism, and philosophical speculation than in this book.

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.
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By misi on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This extremely interesting book integrates our vast knowledge of neuroscience with computational models of perception, sensori-motor integration, memory etc.
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).
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book in 1995 and read it cover-to-cover in 2009. It is an enormously valuable tour of many neuroscience topics, but the general (reasonably sophisticated) non-specialist reader must be tolerant of the very numerous gaps and discontinuities. In other words, this book is not self-contained in the sense that a non-specialist can pick it up and understand it.

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.
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