Monday, August 31, 2009

A Small book about the greatest mistery.
The Brain: A Very Short Introduction

There is no question: the mystery of brain is a challenge for science. Not just for the neuroscience.

The challenge that most surely will not be met in any predictable time.
The amazing little book: "The Brain: A Very Short Introduction" is a title in the Oxford University Press Series "Very Short Introductions" aimed at general readers and beginners alike.

Michael O'Shea's "The Brain" is a kind of the popular review of the state of art of brain research. Using simple terminology the book covers the structure of the brain, signal transmission, evolutionary transformation of the brain, senses and effectors and the current understanding of the complex problem of memory. It also contains some analysis of very recent advances in robotics when it comes to its relation to neuroscience. And many, many more fascinating topics...

Among them is the very recent notion of "wireless-like", non-synaptic communication in the brain. Called "volume signalling" or GasNets, allows remote neurons to communicate without any synaptic connections.

You can find there fascinating short stories of discoveries as well. For example I was amazed by the description of the essence of Eric Kandel remarkable discoveries about memory (BTW, watch fantastic interviews with Eric by Charlie Rose).

I also found a very good, non-naive passages about relation of modern neuroscience and computer science. Some simple analysis presented by the author make the pretentious claims of strong AI proponents just ridiculous.

Finally, I dare to express my personal view on this field of science. I must only emphasize that I'm not a specialist. However, I think that the modern neuroscience ignores the fact that the brain IS a computing device. Paradoxically, Micheal O'Shea is the coordinator of "Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics". Yet, when you read the book you will notice that neuroscience is still analysing the "hardware" of the brain - and ignores the brain "software". There are some parts of the book that suggest the "non-linear" software of the brain could be analysed. But there is no example in the book - what it could really mean.

I know that the brain "software", when discovered, will be entirely of different kind than current "Turing machine" software - we write and use. It is certain, that the brain runs something that can not be even remotely compared to the current "programs". Yet, so many facts support that simple conclusion about the brain science - we still analyse brain hardware, we are not even ready to accept the brain software existence....

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