Help me find a concise history of modern neuroscience?
February 26, 2010 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good, generalist (and preferably concise) account of the history of modern neuroscience.

It could be a book, an article, several articles, etc. I'm doing research for a piece that I have to write faster than I would really like to, which touches on our transition from a purely psychological/Freudian understanding of consciousness, to a neuroscientific one. I want to touch on the development of the neuron theory, the discovery of neurotransmitters, etc., with an eye to eventually talking about the invention of modern antidepressants.

I've read some stuff about all this in bits and pieces but most of that was a long time ago and I need to refresh my

It must already be obvious, but I am not a scientist nor writing for a scientific audience.
posted by toomuchkatherine to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should pick up a copy of Eric Kandel's In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind. I think it's more or less exactly the sort of thing you're looking for. I'm a graduate student in neuroscience and Kandel's textbook is still the one recommended most often for undergraduate classes. He won a Nobel in 2000.
posted by peacheater at 3:46 PM on February 26, 2010

Kandel's book, recommended by peacheater, is a great one.

I'd also suggest Joe LeDoux's The Synaptic Self.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:56 PM on February 26, 2010

A friend of mine recommended Origins of Neuroscience to me the other day. Looks good, though I haven't read it myself.
posted by alygator at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2010

This is a nice collection of links and info to get you started.
posted by euphorb at 8:09 PM on February 26, 2010

As soon as I saw this question on the green page, I thought "Kandel". It was his textbook "Principles of Neural Science" that was my undergrad text book. When I hooked up with a neuroscientist a few years later, she had like 4 copies of that book as well. Check out, older editions are selling for pennies.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:38 PM on February 26, 2010

I don't know how helpful this will be... you say you're looking for a history of the movement from Freud to neuroscience. Kandel is a good person to read, because I think his personal development followed that trajectory. But you're not going to be able to find a general history of the transition from Freudian understandings of consciousness to a neurological one, because that transition never happened. They share an ancestral mentor in common somewhere back (Wundt? Brentano? Charcot?), but neuroscience did not arise from psychoanalytic approaches to the mind. It's like asking for a history of the transition from dinosaurs to humans: humans didn't evolve from dinosaurs. A work that looked at the transition from Freud to neuroscience would be about why so many people accepted Freud and now accept neuroscience, and not about how neuroscientific findings came out of psychoanalytic ones... it would a sociological history rather than a scientific one.
posted by painquale at 11:48 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

painquale, I know what you mean, and perhaps I misspoke. I only mean that psychoanalysis was the dominant framework for understanding mental functioning once, and now biopsychiatry is the dominant framework (even though there are still some psychoanalytic practitioners out there). I didn't mean to imply that the one involved harmoniously into the other.

Thanks for the good suggestions, everyone. I reckon I'll go check out Kandel.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 8:27 AM on February 27, 2010

On preview, I was agreeing w/ painquale, then going on to say there may be some overlap....

The brain's physical structure and chemical operations may be changed by changing your behavior and thoughts. Likewise, changing the chemicals in your brain may change your thinking which then changes the physical structure and operation of the brain, and so on...

For a bit more on this, along with a handy model of the brain, you could check out some Daniel Siegel and look into studies he's used in his work.
posted by powpow at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2010

A point of clarification, I was not recommending Kandel's (and Jessel's, and Schwartz's) Principles of Neural Science. That is certainly an amazing tome, but is not at all what a non-scientist who is interested in the way that neuroscience became the dominant perspective on the way that minds function is looking for. peacheater and I were speaking of Kandel's biography, In Search of Memory. It's a highly accessible and engaging read. In fairly stark contrast, I can't imagine that Principles Neural Science is the sort of thing you just pick up and cruise through in order to gain a passing familiarity. It's not as dense as some of the OG journal articles it explains, but it's not easy reading, by any means.

As long as I'm aboard the correction trolley, I think when you say "neuron theory" what you mean is "neuron doctrine."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:10 AM on February 28, 2010

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