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Drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1899) of neurons in the pigeon cerebellum

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, medicine and allied disciplines, philosophy, physics, and psychology.




  • I have read a great deal now on the neurological side and much on the anthropological side and on the philosophical side and we have had all these discussions and all the time I have the feeling that something may break. I mean that some little light at the end of the tunnel may be sensed or some flash of insight may come. I of course know very well that there is no guarantee it will come, but I have already got myself into this state of expectancy that something will come to my imagination which has some germ of truth about it in this most difficult field.


  • As a brain researcher, I'd started out simply accepting the strictly objective principles of the behaviorist position. In the 1950s and early 1960s, all respectable neuroscientists thought in these terms. In those days, we wouldn't have been caught dead implying that consciousness or subjective experience can affect physical brain processing.
    My first break with this thinking — although I certainly didn't see it that way at the time — came in a 1952 discussion of mind-brain theory in which I proposed a fundamentally new way of looking at consciousness. In it, I suggested that when we focus consciously on an object — and create a mental image for example — it's not because the brain pattern is a copy or neural representation of the perceived object, but because the brain experiences a special kind of interaction with that object, preparing the brain to deal with it.
    I maintained that an identical feeling or thought on two separate occasions did not necessarily involve the identical nerve cells each time. Instead, it is the operational impact of the neural activity pattern as a whole that counts, and this depends on context — just as the word "lead" can mean different things, depending on the rest of the sentence.
  • Nothing in neurobiology makes sense except in the light of behavior.


  • Neuroscience is the field of study that endeavors to make sense of such diverse questions; at the same time, it points the way toward the effective treatment of dysfunctions. The exchange of information among a half-dozen branches of science and the clinical practice of mental health have shaped a new scientific approach to the study of the brain.
  • [I]t is particularly encouraging to see the growing number of computational studies being conducted at the cellular and molecular levels. Perhaps no where else in neuroscience is the risk of getting lost in the trees and separated from overall brain function as great.
    • James M. Bower (1997) Computational Neuroscience: Trends in Research, 1997. p. v
  • The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest gathering of scientists. It drew nearly 23,000 researchers to San Diego in late 1995, and it is almost impossible to cover single-handedly.
    • Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson (1998) Field Guide For Science Writers. p. 163
  • The phenomenal world according to neuroscience is the result of the final transformations of sense data somewhere in the brain. Yet the brain itself belongs to that phenomenal world. R. D. Laing (1976) asks, "How, as a member of the set we have to account for, can it be used to account for the set as a whole, and all members of the set, including itself?"
    • Francis J. Broucek (1991) Shame and the Self. p. 143: He cites Ronald David Laing (1976) The facts of life. p. 25
  • The more we discover scientifically about the brain the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena and the more wonderful do the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a superstition held by dogmatic materialists. It has all the features of a Messianic prophecy, with the promise of a future freed of all problems—a kind of Nirvana for our unfortunate successors.
  • The first proponent of cortical memory networks on a major scale was neither a neuroscientist nor a computer scientist but... a Viennes economist.
    • Attributed to Friedrich Hayek in: Joaquin Fuster (1995) Memory in the Cerebral Cortex. p. 87
  • The elegant study... is consistent with the themes of modern cognitive neuroscience. Every aspect of thought and emotion is rooted in brain structure and function, including many psychological disorders and, presumably, genius. The study confirms that the brain is a modular system comprising multiple intelligences, mostly nonverbal.
    • Steven Pinker "On Einstein's brain," The New York Times (June 24, 1999)
  • The biggest single obstacle to the full use of mathematics in real neuroscience is the sheer difficulty of the relevant mathematics. The brain is far more complex than today's computers; therefore to understand it, one must use even more sophisticated mathematics than the average research engineer is familiar with. Because of this difficulty, a few "middle men" have presented oversimplified description of biology to the engineers, and oversimplified descriptions of the engineering to the biologists. These oversimplifications have often led to considerable misunderstanding and justified mistrust.
  • As we approach the 21st century, neuroscience is the crown jewel of medical progress. The molecular mechanisms encoded in the human genome are being carefully analyzed. Gene therapy is a practical reality.
    • Arthur Earl Walker, Edward R. Laws, Jr., George B. Udvarhelyi (1998) The Genesis of Neuroscience. p. 289


  • Although many philosophers used to dismiss the relevance of neuroscience on grounds that what mattered was “the software, not the hardware”, increasingly philosophers have come to recognize that understanding how the brain works is essential to understanding the mind.
  • There was another major phase of split-brain research where we studied the patients as a way of getting at the other questions very much alive in neuroscience, everything from questions about visual midline overlap to spatial attention and resource allocations. At this point the split-brain patients provided a way of examining cortical-subcortical relationships, and other matters.
  • A blind neuroscientist could give precise quantitative details regarding electrical discharges in the eye produced by the stimulus of light, and a blind craftsman could with instruction fashion a good material model of the eye; but sight and seeing can be known only by one who sees.


  • It now seems beyond question that the traditional account of depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain is simply wrong.
    • Irving Kirsch (2010). The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. p. 80
  • Neuroscience systems level courses teach: 1) the role of neuroanatomical structures of the brain for perception, movement, and cognition; 2) methods to manipulate and study the brain including lesions, electrophysiological recordings, microstimulation, optogenetics, and pharmacology; 3) proper interpretation of behavioral data to deduce brain circuit operation; and 4) the similarities, differences, and ethics of animal models and their relation to human physiology. These four topics come together quite dramatically in Dr. Jose Delgado’s 1960s famous experiments on the neural correlates of aggression in which he stopped bulls in mid-charge by electrically stimulating basal ganglia and thalamic structures.

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