This book has a number of features which make it an ideal text for medical students without substantial background in neurobiology or neuroscience.
- Perhaps the book's greatest virtue is its conversational tone. Dr. Mason's conversational style engages the reader with every-day examples, down-to-earth language, and simple illustrations of complex phenomena, allowing the more complex details to be worked out as the book develops. When reading through the text, I was surprised by how intuitive the concepts that she presented seemed - probably because she makes sure to lay them out in a simple fashion BEFORE employing all the complicated terminology that can intimidate and confuse the beginning student.
- Broad, Comprehensive Scope: This book is relatively unique in that is not only covers neuroanatomical and neurophysiological concepts, but also covers the embryology/development as well as cell biology of the nervous system. This gives a broader picture of the nervous system than a traditional neuroanatomy text. The various concepts are also presented in a logical manner, with the more advanced topics presented after - and built upon - the earlier, foundational topics. This gives the book a narrative style, as opposed to a disjointed or encyclopedic style of some other texts.
- Clinical Focus: There are clinical correlations interspersed throughout the text that I found very useful. Although some may prefer the format of having a "Clinical Case" section at the end of each chapter, Dr. Mason's strategy of peppering clinical material throughout the text helps create a narrative, where diseases and syndromes are visited in one context (ex. the cellular dysfunction involved in neuro-muscular diseases) and then revisited later in another context (ex. the motor tracts affected in neuro-muscular diseases).
- It Sticks to the Clinical Material: The book is aimed a medical students, and thus stays relatively clear of material that is only of interest to researchers. Material is presented as either directly relevant to medical practice, or as essential background that every medical student should know.
- Diagrams: The illustrations and diagrams could use some re-imagining by a professional designer. Many of the diagrams are intended to be simple, in order to convey the essential information, although sometimes this simplicity makes understanding the diagrams more difficult due to lack of supporting visual context. Although generally, if you spend some time working through them, they will make sense.
- It Is A First Edition: This isn't a CON per se, however, because the text is still in its first printing, there are errors that tend to accompany most first-edition books. Almost all errors are small and easily detectable by a second year medical student (for example, mistakenly classifying acetaminophen as an NSAID). Presumably in later additions these will be corrected.
- Lack of Practice Questions: This is more of a stylistic preference. Many students prefer practice questions or exercises at the end of chapters to reinforce material. This book omits these.
- Quantity of Images: This book is more text-heavy than some, and has relatively fewer images. Although all essential concepts have illustrations accompanying them, more images would be a plus. Further, some of the diagrams of the brain can be confusing. I recommend obtaining a good neuroanatomy atlas to accompany this text.
This is an excellent neurobiology text for medical students, and has a broad scope and readable, down-to-earth style. Be on the lookout for minor errors, and bring an accompanying neuroanatomy atlas with you, and you'll learn a great deal of neurobiology. This is one of the very few textbooks that can be read cover to cover with enjoyment.
Most importantly, after finishing the book, you will feel prepared to move on to the clinical pathology of the nervous system with confidence.