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Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 28. Januar 2003

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Sometime before he wrote The Synaptic Self, Joseph LeDoux walking down Bourbon Street spotted a T-shirt that read, "I don't know, so maybe I'm not". This stimulus zoomed from eyes to brain, neuron by neuron, via tiny junctions called synapses. The results? An immediate chuckle and (sometime later) a groundbreaking book. To LeDoux, the simple question, "What makes us who we are?" represents the driving force behind his 20-plus years of research into the cognitive, emotional and motivational functions of the brain.

LeDoux believes the answer rests in the synapses, key players in the brain's intricately designed communication system. In other words, the pathways by which a person's "hardwired" responses (nature) mesh with his or her unique life experiences (nurture) determine that person's individuality. Here, LeDoux nimbly compresses centuries of philosophy, psychology, and biology into an amazingly clear picture of humanity's journey toward understanding the self.

Equally readable is his comprehensive science lesson, where detailed circuit speak reads like an absorbing--yet often humorous--mystery novel. Skilfully presenting research studies and findings alongside their various implications, LeDoux makes a solid case for accepting a synaptic explanation of existence and provides to the reader generous helpings of knowledge, amusement, and awe along the way. --Liane Thomas, -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


"A detailed but very accessible journey into the world of circuits and synapses." —Science

"LeDoux's surely the most accessible contemporary work for those interested in the brain's effect on personality." —Booklist

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190 von 193 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
painless intro to synaptic structure and biochemistry 15. August 2003
Von R. M. Williams - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The book is an introduction to neurology from the particular viewpoint of the synapse and associated biochemistry. The author's specific interest in the field is experimental research into fear circuits in the brain, and the book shows this interest well and it forms the bulk of the examples. It is not the first book in the field that i would recommend to someone just getting interested, it is an "advanced intro" if that is possible, just a little hard going if you have no idea of the terminology or general structures. But it is written to the educated laymen, doesn't require a college degree to understand it, and is a welcome addition to my expanding library on the philosophy of the mind.
The book is well written, flows nicely until the near end,(drags a little just after chapter 6 however, that is why a 4 not a 5 rating) i'd recommend "synaptic sickness" be moved to an appendix if it couldn't be integrated into the body of the book better. The scholarly apparatus is kept to a minimum yet the push to ratify/justify the new knowledge via experimental data and reference to other scientists work is clearly evident and makes the book a good intro to the field, as further study is facilitated. I found the use of concrete experimental examples and the prolific use of diagrams (especially figures 6.4 - 6.6) particularly good(very superior), the book was always engrossing and a stimulating read, not common in books written by scientists who are not teachers as well.
As to particularly important ideas: i would point to chapter 6= "small change" and the systematic analysis of Hebbian plasticity and how long-term potentiation supplies the synaptic justification for memory and learning the key chapter in the whole book. The chapters before are introductory prologue to this idea, and the chapters subsequent are particular examples of how Hebbian plasticity and synaptic change unlie the circuits of the brain and hence become who we are.
And unusual emphasis(compared to the field as a whole) is on the emotional side of the triad: cognition, emotion, motivation, this is due to the author's interest and last book as a result of his professional research into fear circuitry. I appreciate the emphasis as a long overdue correction to neurology being somewhat, like philosophy of the mind, concentrated on the cognition part of the equation. With this emphasis and direction much of the book dedicated to showing fear circuits and like analysis means this ends up with teaching you a wider view of the brain than most introductory books. A good thing.
So i wholehearted recommend the book to anyone who had the patience and interest to finish reading this review. thanks.
106 von 115 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
LeDoux's Synaptic Self is wonderful ! 23. März 2002
Von Shelley Hussey - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
LeDoux starts his first chapter with a quote from Bart Simpson: "Dad, what is the mind? Is it just a system of impulses or something tangible?" My kind of humor.
LeDoux's Synaptic Self is a wonderful book loaded with clear understandable explanations and insights (his wife, a "fantastic writer," assisted) on how the brain works based on the most current neuroscience (e.g., how neurons/synapses/neurotransmitters/neuro modulators work/don't work, implicit/explicit learning/memory mechanism explanations, nature/nurture considerations, the "mental trilogy" of cognition/emotion/motivation, and much more). The book's bottom-line, he writes, is "you are your synapses." With this book, "know thyself," and even fix thyself, seem more attainable. It's a book I'll reread/study for a while.
The following are quotes from the last chapter:
Life requires many brain functions, functions require systems, and systems are made of synaptically connected neurons. We all have the same brain systems, and the number of neurons in each brain system is more or less the same in each of us as well. However, the particular way those neurons are connected is distinct, and that uniqueness, in short, is what makes us who we are.
What is remarkable is that synapses in all of these systems are capable of being modified by experience... Emotion systems [as an example]... are programmed by evolution to respond to some stimuli, so-called innate or unconditioned stimuli, like predators or pain. However, many of the things that elicit emotions in us or motivate us to act in certain ways are not preprogrammed into our brains as part of our species heritage but have to be learned by each of us. Emotion systems learn by association - when an emotionally arousing stimulus is present, other stimuli that are also present acquire emotion-arousing qualities (classical conditioning), and actions that bring you in contact with emotionally desirable stimuli or protect you from harmful or unpleasant ones are learned (instrumental conditioning.) As in all other types of learning, emotional associations are formed by synaptic changes in the brain system involved in processing the stimuli. Some of the brain's plastic emotional processors include systems involved in detecting and responding to danger, finding and consuming food, identifying potential mates and having sex.
Because synaptic plasticity occurs in most if not all brain systems, one might be tempted to conclude that the majority of brain systems are memory systems. But [as LeDoux argues in chapter 5], a better way of thinking about this is that the ability to be modified by experience is a characteristic of many brain systems, regardless of their specific function. Brain systems, in other words, were for the most part not designed as storage devices - plasticity is not their main job assignment. They were instead designed to perform particular tasks like processing sounds or sights, detecting food or danger or mates, controlling actions, and so on. Plasticity is simply a feature that helps them do their job better.
Functions depend on connections: break the connections and you lose the functions...
From LeDoux's Synaptic Self
140 von 155 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Good pop neuroscience 22. April 2003
Von Carlos Camara - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book is as good as a popular science book can be, and explains in easy terms some of the most important concepts in neuroscience. For this it should be widely read. However, Ledoux wants to explain the self, and not only to write a popular book on cognitive neuroscience. Now, given that it is very difficult not to accept that the self at some level is nothing but synapses, Ledoux does seem to base the self on neurobiological mechanisms. But this is no more enlightening than sayying that vision, attention, language, or even qualia are nothing but synapses, claims that at some level must also be correct. So one would expect the bulk of the book to develop principles that tie or at least correlate the self with brain mechanisms. Do we get this in Synaptic Self? well, yes and no.

Ledoux concentrates on memory, having in his last book focused on emotion. He explains memory systems from molecules to circuits, with the classical and most recent findings, including some from his own lab. He also gives a quick overview of the emotional systems of the brain, the working memory complex of the prefrontal cortex, and motivational systems of neuromodulator and brainstem and thalamocortical systems. He calls that the mental trilogy, namely cognition, emotion and motivation. Ledoux also wrote a nice chapter on some brain diseases that seem to alter these functions selectively. And thats it. Ledoux has explained the self. Or has he? Well, memory, emotion, cognition and motivation surely contribute to the making of the self, especially memory. How much of a self is left in a retrograde and anterograde severe amnesic? But this is not saying that putting them together is all the self is about. Its like saying vision, attention and waking are what consicousness is. Vision provides content, attention access, and waking a necesary condition for consicousness, but together they are not the phenomenon in question. I bring out consicousness because Ledoux says the really hard and important question in neuroscience is the self, and not consciousness. To me it seems almost silly to try to understand the former without the latter.

Ledoux then forgets about the feeling of the self itself, the possible bases of it on body schemas and body signals, the primacy of movement. He does touch on volition and free will, and is as naturalistic about these issues as one can be, which I think is a good thing. The final chapter presents 7 principles he can extract from his discussions, and meybe here we can find his theory of the self. Unfortunately, he seems just to add another thing, binding, to the picture. So binding, convergence zones, emotion and motivation, memory, placticity, hebbbian mechanisms of memory, together are the self. Again, I would say they are an important part of the self, but not the self itself. I may be wrong or maybe dogmatic about what would count as an explanation for the self. Maybe there is nothing more to the self than those mechanisms Ledoux lists. But work in theorethical neuroscience like by Damasio, or Patricia Churchland and philosophers like Bermudez show that the self is more complex than Ledoux seems to think.

At the end this book is of value, and I never said it did not make progress on the problem of the neurobiology of the self. However, it does not by any means solve it. It presents a nice theory of the integration of cognitive and affective mechanisms, and manages to cover a great deal of issues in simple terms, and that is always an achievement.
46 von 49 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
LeDoux has a winner again 20. Juli 2002
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Joseph LeDoux has written an exciting book that captures the current state of research in neuroscience. He makes life easy for the lay reader by thoroughly covering not only his own research and theory but that of most other points of view both contemporary and historical thus helping to place his work in a context that gives the reader the feeling that he is reading something on the cutting edge. He is so thorough that one almost thinks that he gives a little too much time to the philosophical approach but at least he stays away from burying the reader in qualia.
In a nut shell, LeDoux makes his argument that Hebbian plasticity is alive and well and that the mechanism for learning and memory is located at the synapses through the action of the neurotransmitters. You almost feel that, by God, he's got it right. The interaction of different neural loci such as the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex are pictured as creating interconnecting networks that craft our responses to the environment, both external and internal. These are all made coherent by wrapping them in the mental trilogy of cognition, emotion and motivation. My only concern is when he mentions the retrieval of stored information and the comparison of present neural information with previously stored experience. This implies that an agent is lurking about conducting these activities. It's the homunculus rearing his ugly head. He also leaves out the interesting research conducted by Benjamin Libet on the disparity between response and the intention to respond. But these are small matters for there is much to fascinate and inform the reader who is fortunate enough to come across this book.
LeDoux also provides an interesting chapter on synaptic sickness. This chapter could stand on it's own though it flows elegantly from the previous theory. It gives a cogent explanation for mental illness and the promising approaches to it's treatment at the level of neurotransmitters and synapses.
There is much to like in this volume and one hopes that more is on its way.
20 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Not an easy read but well worth the effort 21. Juli 2006
Von Atheen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Joseph LeDoux's book Synaptic Self is one of those works that is so dense with material, it may take a second run through to really appreciate it all. Although probably written for a general audience, it is not an easy read. Don't expect to be able to zip right through it in a few days. His descriptions of the central nervous system, how it develops, how it functions, and how it matures, is very detailed. It gets down to the chemistry of the process and into the sub-areas of brain topography in a much more thorough way than many books of this kind tend to do. I have a health care background and started my career as a neurology nurse, and it still took me some time to go through the material.

The book is a wonderful compendium of both the history of the research into neuro function and of the more recent discoveries. The author does a splendid job of synthesis for the reader; he presents a very balanced report of what is believed about brain function and the concept of self and of the literature on the topics. He presents theoretical models by himself and others and integrates them into a more coherent whole by pointing out where the likely weaknesses are and where research is still needed. This requires a very thorough knowledge of the recent literature and of the field in general, which requires a great deal of time and dedication to do well.

The newest information was of considerable interest to me. It certainly made me realize how far behind I was with respect to what is understood already about brain/mind functioning and about the development of the self. Information on the function of the working memory, especially on why we forget the way we do sometimes, was very intriguing and made considerable sense (p. 175), as did the concept of the "executive" function in decision making (p. 178). What I found most practical was the author's placement of the material in a health care context. The last chapter is devoted to the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. Some of the medications that have arisen for the treatment of these problems over the years are familiar to me from my career as a nurse, and it was interesting to understanding the underlying principles of their effect and why they are prescribed.

I was especially pleased to see that the author was not "lazy" in dealing with his citations either. He includes not only a list of footnotes for each chapter at the end of the book, citing and explaining his references, but also includes a bibliography of these at the end as well. So many books, often by very competent authors, let their footnote citations serve as their only bib, which means one has to go through every entry to mine for further reading materials. While some of these entries are older ones, mostly those dealing with historical material and early research, most of them are dated 1996 and later. The names listed are virtually a who's who of the neurosciences and experimental psychology. Several books might make good starting points for those wanting to know more. The material cited is, however, mostly journals of original research, always a good sign. While the average general reader might find some of these difficult to obtain, the student should find many of them in their periodicals department or their biomedical library if they attend a university.
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