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It may seem a mighty task to produce a book dealing with most of the major aspects of neurobiological research and its relevance to disease, particularly when that book weighs in at less than 21lbs. This volume, however, goes a long way in achieving these admirable goals.
The volume is dedicated to Tom Sears who has recently retired from the Chair of the Sobell Department of Neurophysiology, at the Institute of Neurology in London. The editors have gathered together an impressive list of contributors, and it is a tribute to Tom Sears that most of the authors acknowledge the influence of Professor Sears and his coworkers in their chapters. There are over 40 chapters, and most are only a few pages long. When trying to distill essential contributions made in any one field, there is inevitable variation in the extent to which this is achieved and in the readability between chapters.
The book is split into four sections: the first deals with physiology and pathophysiology of nerve fibres, the second with pain, the third with the control of nervous system output, and the fourth with development, survival, regeneration, and death. There are concise contributions from Ritchie and Waxman on ion channels and the molecular anatomy of the node of Ranvier which introduce the first section. Further chapters consider normal central and peripheral nerve conduction before dealing with disease. Throughout the book the authors attempt to direct their contributions of assessing why and how disease occurs. Newsom-Davis provides a chapter on autoimmunity at the neuromuscular junction, Feasby on the pathophysiology of human demyelinating neuropathies, and McDonald on the mechanisms of relapse and remission in multiple sclerosis. There is a well written chapter by Smith on conduction properties of central demyelinated axons and the generation of symptoms in demyelinating disease. Pain is dealt with in the second section, and this includes a readable chapter on myofacial pain syndromes by Westguard, as well as Shen’s attempt to assess the neurophysiological basis of pain relief by acupuncture.
Part III deals with the control of central nervous system output, and obviously contains the widest range of topics. I would single out the chapters by Prochazka, Gorassini, and Taylor on the cerebellum and proprioceptive control of movement, together with Jefferys’ chapter on cortical circuit synchronisation and seizures. There are also several contributions relating to respiration. The final section considers development, survival, regeneration, and death. This is the least inspiring part of the book, which is disappointing as this is currently the most exciting area of neuroscience.
Overall the editors have succeeded in condensing a huge amount of information in a readable and educative fashion. This book will appeal to all those interested in clinical neurology, both in training and practice, as well as those neuroscientists who seek to broaden their own field of research.
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