Conditions of Use
I am so pleased to see an excellent, clear, concise, and consistent open textbook on basic neuroscience concepts and facts. I wish I had been made aware of this book earlier! It is difficult to provide a truly comprehensive overview of all of... read more
I am so pleased to see an excellent, clear, concise, and consistent open textbook on basic neuroscience concepts and facts. I wish I had been made aware of this book earlier! It is difficult to provide a truly comprehensive overview of all of neuroscience. A textbook that aimed to do this would grow without bounds in each edition, and we only need to turn to the various editions of Kandel et al. for a classic example. Thankfully, this is clearly not the aim of this textbook. As stated in the Introduction, the intended audience is “the undergraduate student that is new to neuroscience”. The first edition is further limited to topics that are covered by the Neurobiology course at Michigan State University, so the textbook does not currently include many planned additions, which include topics like emotion, memory, pain, diseases and disorders, pain, audition, olfaction, and sleep. The parts that are most comprehensive at the time of this review are Part I (Neuron Structure and Function) and Part II (Neuronal Communication). These parts give a sufficiently detailed overview of these basic concepts and cover the “right” topics—that is to say, the ones that I would expect undergraduates to know well when taking an upper-level neurobiology course. The overview of neuroanatomy in Part III appears too brief and basic, but it is really an introduction to the more advanced neuroanatomy that is well described in Part IV (e.g., the DCML pathway) and Part V (e.g., the direct and indirect pathways of the basal ganglia). As in Parts I-II, Parts III-V of the textbook have found the “Goldilocks zone” that balances comprehensiveness and conciseness. An extremely minor suggestion is to include tetrodotoxin, picrotoxin, and botulinum/tetanus toxin to the discussion of drugs and toxins in Part II. Considering the intended audience of this textbook, and once the planned topics are added, it would seem hard to find any weaknesses worth mentioning when considering the comprehensiveness of this textbook.
The content is accurate and reflects the current consensus on major, important neuroscience concepts. If there are any issues in this first edition, they are very minor and can be addressed by the instructor. (For example, in Fig. 16.1, the rostro-caudal axis could be illustrated as a single, continuous, and “curved” axis spanning the entire CNS, and the spinal cord could be shown as ending around L1-L2.)
The text focuses on content that has been fundamental to our current understanding of neuroscience. So, barring a great paradigm shift, it is obvious that the textbook will not become obsolete any time soon.
The clarity of the text is one of the key strengths of this textbook. It provides the needed facts and concepts with enough detail to be accurate, but without the excessive detail that bogs down conceptual understanding in a novice neuroscience student. An excellent example of the clear writing is in the Voltage Clamp chapter. Teaching the importance and conceptual framework of voltage clamp to a novice undergraduate is not for the faint of heart, but the chapter breaks it down simply, clearly, and concisely. At the end of the chapter, the Additional Review box does a wonderful job of solidifying prior concepts so the student can feel confident understanding this technique and its importance in the field. A minor suggestion would be to enhance the explanation of saltatory conduction by showing how the membrane voltage changes across one myelinated segment across time and space.
The high consistency of the text is part of the reason why the text is so clear. Most of the chapters also consistently have illustrations and interactive content to enhance learning.
I think the way the text is organized into subsections with headings is another key strength of this book. I would feel extremely comfortable assigning small sections of the text as needed, knowing that students are reading relevant and essential information, and would not need to refer to other parts of the text (or other resources) too much to understand the sections that I assign.
The logical flow of this book is one of its major strengths, and I find it difficult to believe that there could be a much better way to order the sequence of topics. I only find two very minor issues here. First, although Part III is already framed as an introduction to Part IV and Part V, this fact could be accentuated a bit more. Second, including Epigenetics, Sexual Differentiation, and Masculinizing Effects of Estrogen chapters is interesting, but their rationale for inclusion is a bit unclear because the chapters do not appear to deal with neuroscience concepts directly, nor do they seem to further the development of prior neuroscience concepts.
The interface is another key strength of the textbook. I expected to read a simple textbook with text and some illustrations, but I was pleasantly surprised to see video overviews, animations, and interactive quiz questions! These were all properly integrated and worked well at the time of the review. Obviously, with these interactive features, the online version is the best interface. The PDFs worked well, and so did the EPUB version (which I viewed with Calibre and with Adobe Digital Editions). I did not test the ODT version.
It is very clear that the textbook is properly edited in this regard. I think that there was only one case where there were some very minor mistakes in spelling (Fig. 14.2), but this in no way undermined my confidence in the text.
The textbook does not address topics that would be problematic in terms of race, ethnicity, or cultural background.
Overall, the author has done a tremendous job of producing an excellent first edition of a neuroscience open textbook. The planned additional topics are very exciting because they will transform this into a key resource for those who are teaching and learning undergraduate introductory neuroscience. I will already begin to use this book in my courses and I am deeply impressed by the planning and execution of this textbook.
The book is comprehensive with regard to neuronal structure, function, communication, nervous system organization, as well as sensory and motor systems. However, the text does not address neurological disorders, mental illness and treatments. read more
The book is comprehensive with regard to neuronal structure, function, communication, nervous system organization, as well as sensory and motor systems. However, the text does not address neurological disorders, mental illness and treatments.
From the chapters I reviewed, the content appears to be accurate, error-free and unbiased. Given the nature of the content, which is scientific and fact-based, this book is less likely to be biased (than perhaps more subjective topics).
The well studied and scientific nature of the content is likely to be relevant now and in the future. However, there are new discoveries relating to the brain and neuronal communication, particularly with regard to the treatment of addiction, neurological disorders and mental illness. I would like to see this content included and updated (when necessary). It looks as though additional content can be implemented in a relatively easy and straightforward manner.
The clarity of this text is impressive. Moreover, the author still provides adequate and understandable content-despite the neuroscience terminology.
I found the text to be internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
The text seems to be easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections. And in fact, topics are arranged in manageable or small paragraphs, which makes this difficult content easier to understand and process for an undergraduate student.
I thought the topics were presented in a logical, clear fashion. However, there should be more information listed in the social behavior and stress sections, along with content involving relevant disorders and treatment.
The interface was free of significant issues. Many video elements were removed, but author provided a link where content can be viewed by reader. Some images were simplistic, though still informative. Also, the reader can click on a given chapter in the table of contents to immediately access that information, versus scrolling through previous chapters until the desired content is found.
In this book review, I did not detect grammatical errors.
This text is scientific-based, and therefore culturally "neutral". The examples used in content do not focus on race or ethnicity.
I found the overview and key takeaways to be helpful, in summarizing the content for learning and study purposes.
Table of Contents
- I. Neuron Structure & Function
- II. Neuronal Communication
- III. Nervous System Organization
- IV. Sensory Systems
- V. Motor System
- VI. Behavior
About the Book
Foundations of Neuroscience is aimed at undergraduate students new to the field of neuroscience. The first edition specifically targets students enrolled in Neurobiology at Michigan State University and primarily contains topics covered in that course.
About the Contributors
Casey Henley, Michigan State University