Neuroscience: A Historical Introduction
by Mitchell Glickstein
MIT Press, 2014 ($50)
Neuroscientists sometimes say, with a mix of awe and whimsy, that the brain is the most complex machine in the universe. Because the topic is such a weighty one, some of the books that introduce this discipline arrive with more heft than a 1988 laptop. Glickstein, a professor emeritus of neuroscience at University College London, takes a less daunting approach by conveying the stories of the scientific discoveries that have given us an understanding of the basics of vision, reflexes, learning and memory. He succeeds by relating the way scientists and clinicians have derived new insights from contemplating disease and injury in humans while probing the workings of the nervous systems of rats, flies and sea slugs. This approach provides understanding of neurons and the way pain, heat and taste are processed by the brain—and much more.