Better understanding the brain?
Author: Richard Passingham
Publisher: Oxford University Press
„It is clear, then, that the long-term aim must be to produce computer models that are more and more flexible and that are more biologically plausible in terms of what we know about the actual brain.”, says Richard Passingham while contemplating the future of neuroscience, which is already intertwined with artificial intelligence and special projects like Google’s Deep Mind or IBM’s Blue Brain.
But what is neuroscience? How did we get here? As I am fascinated with the brain and our ability and inability to understand its functions, I needed to get my hands on Cognitive Neuroscience. A very short introduction and read about „what is happening in our brains when we perceive, think, reason, will, and act”. And that’s cognitive neuroscience. A relatively new branch studying all the functions of the brains with measurements and technology such as fMRI.
This short introduction does a great job in dissecting every main function, in a separate chapter such as Perceving, Remembering, Attending, Checking etc., while presenting the part of the brain under scrutiny and a couple of experiments so as to better understand why they reached that conclusion. Also, every chapter starts with a set of research questions like Why can’t we tickle ourselves?, How can we learn from our mistakes when we perform tasks that are difficult? or What is the basis for moral reasoning? and ends with the key answers.
The language is a bit technical, although it is as friendly as this scientific domain can be, and the guide is full of brain schemas and specific language, so you can familiarize with the topic at hand. It’s also good at explaining specific actions and how they work. For instance: When we are performing a difficult task and we make an error, the prefrontal cortex is re-engaged on the next trial. This means that we attend better on the next trial and are thus less likely to make an error.
Cognitive Neuroscience. A very short introduction is a must read if you want to understand how scientist study the brain and try to replicate the processes inside a machine. It’s also a must read in our environment which is full of human-computer interactions and which is preparing for machine learning / AI-based solutions for our everyday life.