How does the brain work? How do the cells of the brain—the neurons—communicate with each other? Are neuronal transplants possible? Examining these and other issues, The Biology of the Brain offers a series of engaging and readily comprehensible essays—written by scientists working in the discipline—which detail science’s understanding of the cellular nature of the brain. The Biology of the Brain opens with a fascinating introduction by one of the world’s leading neurobiologists, Rodolfo Llinás, who summarizes the major developments and discoveries in brain research in the last 100 years.
Following this is an extraordinarily lucid article which explains the form and function of the neuron—the brain’s cellular workhorse. This essay sets the stage for understanding the mechanics of the working, thinking brain. Cell communication is examined next; this report outlines the recently discovered similarities between the messenger molecules in neurotransmitters and hormones and explores the implications of this discovery for future research. Groundwork is thus laid for the next article, which focuses on “second messengers” and their possible role in long term changes in the nervous system. Along with offering insight in the chemical composition of neuronal transmission, this article demonstrates the extraordinarily complex nature of nerve cells. Rodolfo Llinás then probes the central issue of synaptic transmission. Subsequent essays describe how the study of simple nervous systems provides clues to understanding the workings of complex neural networks; the chemical differentiation of neurotransmitters; the function of neuropeptides in mediating behavior; what the retina tells us about nerve networks; and more. The Biology of the Brain concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of neuronal transplantation and its potential for modifying behavior.