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Customer Review

on October 10, 2011
"Eye, Brain, and Vision" is an informative read about the inner workings of how vision is perceived. The book was well laid out and fairly easy to understand without the consult of other sources. The book first introduces the reader with a brief overview of cellular neuroscience. Covering neurons, neural pathways, membrane potentials, impulses, inhibition etc. Throughout the book Hubel gives examples to clarify concepts and provides detailed figures supporting the described findings.

Overall I found this book to be interesting and informative. In my opinion the first couple chapters were somewhat dull, but I really enjoyed the book when Hubel begins talking about the various experiments conducted in this field. The style of the book is factual with concepts building up on previous chapters. Hubel provides many scientific experiments, many of which are his own, to support his claims and he briefly explains the experimental design to the reader for a better overall understanding.

Structure:

The book was organized in such a way to provide the reader sufficient information about neuroanatomy and function before diving into more complex subjects. I consider the first 4 chapters (Impulses, Synapses, and Circuits; The Eye; Primary Visual Cortex) to be chapters that provide the reader with background information. Even Hubel noted in these chapters that some of these explanations are simplified so that it would be easier to conceptualize. The rest of the book covering Architecture of the Eye, Magnification and Modules, The Corpus Callosum and Stereopsis, Color and Vision, Deprivation and Development, Present and Future were in my opinion the most interesting part of the book. Hubel brings ideas and concepts together by detailing specific experiments, and providing pictures and graphs. One thing to note is that the very last section is slightly outdated since it was published in 1995. Overall the structure of the book aided in the understanding of the complex concepts.

Specific sections and opinions:

"Pathways"
In explaining what a neural pathway is, Hubel writes "An animal is, by one possible definition, an organism that reacts to outside events and that influences the outside world by its actions," explaining that it is the inputs and outputs (via neural pathways) of the central nervous system that make us who we are. Remove a single factor from that and we become a "vegetable" as Hubel states. He builds on this concept by explaining the visual pathways and the various cells and mechanisms associated with it. Making the visual pathway much easier to understand.

"Architecture of the Visual Cortex"
Hubel explains the various parts in the striated cortex such as visual areas 1, 2, 3, and 4 as well as the medial temporal. He introduces the concept of orientation columns and ocular dominance columns in this section. For these two types of columns Hubel talks about experiments conducted on macaque monkeys and cats. These columns are highly organized structures that correspond to various line stimuli for orientation columns or to a specific eye in the case of ocular dominance columns. I found these two sections in this chapter to be fascinating, because he provides in detail how these conclusions were made. Hubel explains how he and Wiesel in the 1960s conducted an experiment to determine the geometry of the orientation columns. As Hubel explains it "[we were] using a one-dimensional technique to answer a three-dimensional question" and described it as "frustrating." Hubel described that later on other methods to determine the regularity of the columns were discovered. One of which is the injection of deoxyglucose, which Hubel provides detailed pictures of the visual cortex with this injection. This section was quite interesting and Hubel did add some comic relief on this topic

"The Corpus Callosum and Stereopsis"
The role of the corpus callosum was unknown for quite some time. It was quite funny to read that someone suggested "the sole function of the corpus callosum was to hold the two cerebral hemispheres together." Hubel goes on and explains a plethora of experiments conducted by making incisions on various parts of the optic tract. Some of these incisions were made such that information from the eyes would not reach one of the hemisphere in the visual cortex. They then would see if they can stimulate cells in this region, suggesting that the corpus callosum is sending information between the two hemispheres. This section was quite easy to understand due to the informative cartoons of the optical tract. It showed exactly where the incision was made and the flow of information. The cartoons can be misleading though, because the arrows are pointing in one direction. When in reality the information is passed back and forth in the LGN and the visual cortex, although he may have done this for simplicities sake.
Hubel writes this chapter like a story, which is probably why it is so easy to understand. To explain the corpus callosum he talks about Myers' Cat and how Myer cut the optic chiasm at a specific point. He then taught the cat on one eye to pick out a specific shape and on the other eye to test if the cat can find that shape. Hubel also describes how Leonardo da Vinci almost discovered stereopsis. "If Leonardo had chosen a cube instead of a sphere he would surely have realized that the two retinal projections are different, and that the differences involve horizontal displacements."

Concluding Opinions:

What grabs my attention in this book is how Hubel can take a complex subject in neuroscience and write an interesting story about it. Although the first couple chapters seemed a bit dull, they were necessary to provide some basic information for the more interesting topics.

Overall this book was informative and interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the how the visual system works from beginning to end. Hubel provides many experiments to aid in the explanation of topics and some of these explanations read more like a story.
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