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A Guide to the Brain’s Involvement in Everyday Activities

By: , Posted on: September 18, 2017

Neuroscience Basics A Guide to the Brain's Involvement in Everyday Activities

Maybe you are one of those nerds who loves listening to podcasts about the latest scientific discoveries and you want to better understand how the brain works. Or maybe you are walking alongside a loved one diagnosed with brain disorder that you would like to understand a little better. Maybe you are one of those science nerds trying to get a head start on your introduction to neuroscience class.

No matter what is driving your interest in the brain, you’ve come to a good space to discover more about the brain outside of the classroom. There are many amazing textbooks that guide students through the basics of neurobiology. But this book is aimed at guiding anyone interested in how the brain works through some of the basic topics covered in an introductory neuroscience class—minus a lot of the jargon, quizzes, tests, projects, and mathematical equations.

Another way to view this books is a “cliff notes” version of the major textbooks used to teach introductory neuroscience. If you ever want to dive deeper, there are references at the end of each chapter that can help you with that.

Our days are intricate, and activities during the day are also complex. So how does our brain work throughout a typical day? How does the brain function during some of these basic aspects that we encounter in a daily routine?

We will discuss what normal function looks like and what happens when things don’t go according to plan. When we explore some of the diseases, I will mention some movies or documentaries that chronicle that disease. While reading about the disease symptoms and what occurs in the brains of people with these diseases helps our understanding, these documentaries and movies allow us to see the human side of the disease and what it is like to a person with that disorder. And the movies listed are in no way an exhaustive list.

On the science end of this book, I will unapologetically use the metric system in this book. I live in the metric system. I weigh things in grams and my glassware in my lab is in the metric system. Scientists love acronyms. The hard part with science acronyms is figuring out when you pronounce it like a word, or individually say each letter. I will point that out throughout this book.

And who am I that I can offer light on these topics? Good question! I always encourage my students to consider the source of the information, and you should do nothing less. I am a scientist and a professor at a liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. My first time touching a brain was in high school. I was so nervous that my palms were a little sweaty, which made the powder in the latex gloves create a paste on my skin. There in my hands was a human brain. It was so amazing, squishy yet not falling apart, and so complex. While the smell in the cadaver lab reeked of formaldehyde which made me a little light headed, I was hooked on studying the brain. (Shout out to my AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Bobbitt! Thank you for introducing me to such a fascinating area of study!)

When I was in high school and college, I thought I wanted to be a physician. As I shadowed physicians, I realized that my brain did not really think the way physicians think. I started working for a science lab after college until I could figure out what I wanted to do. In that lab, I realized how amazing scientific research was and that my brain was definitely wired to think like a researcher. I applied to a Ph.D. program and after 5 years of training. I graduated with my Ph.D. in Neurobiology. I did postdoctoral training in the cell biology of neurodevelopmental disorders as well as in science education. After my post-doctoral fellowship, I began teaching and conducting research at the small liberal arts college I am at today. All that to say, I have sat under great instructors who have explained these topics well and I have taught these topics at the undergraduate level.

My love of the brain is not first generation. I am at least a second-generation brain lover (in a non-zombie way, of course). My dad researches clinical anesthesia. My mom studies and teaches the psychology of early childhood education. And, the cherry on top of my neuroscience lineage is a pet. We had a family pet named after a structure of the of brain, the synapse. I have a rich nerd lineage.

Now, let’s learn about what the brain does every day.

The above is an excerpt from the Preface of the book Neuroscience Basics: A Guide to the Brain’s Involvement in Everyday Activities now available online via ScienceDirect or in print or e-copy on the Elsevier store here. Apply discount code STC317 at checkout and receive up to 30% off the list price and free global shipping.

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The scientific study of the nervous system is entering a new golden age. Researchers and clinicians continue to advance the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. Public initiatives like the federal Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) program in the United States, announced in April 2013, ensure that funding and resources will continue to be applied to this rapidly growing field. Elsevier’s journals, books, eBooks, online references, and tools are respected around the world for everything from physiology and pathology to behavioral genetics and nerve repair. Our publications are a gateway to the latest advancements in neuroscience research and leading-edge data for professionals, students, and academics alike.