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Edited by Per Brodal. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003, £49.50 (hardback), pp 495. ISBN 0-19-516560-8
This third edition of Per Brodal’s book “The central nervous system: structure and function”, last edited in 1998, attests to the efforts of the author to keep up with the rapid pace of development in the field of neurosciences. Many of us probably remember the repulsive effect of overwhelming details in some textbooks of neuroanatomy or neurophysiology, that fail to be relevant in clinical practice. Here, the dynamic and concise presentation of both the structure and the function of the central nervous system at different levels (molecular, cellular, and systems), with special emphasis on how the different components are connected and interact, manages to captivate the reader. Beside key information on the fundamental background, there are numerous clinical examples that will help the medical student to bridge the gap between basic and clinical neuroscience. The book also offers several didactic drawings and figures, and, for the reader interested in a particular topic, more detailed sections are placed in highlighted boxes. In addition, a rich selection of references recommended by the author on each topic are listed at the end of the book. The third edition includes two new sections on the vestibular system and the control of eye movements.
The principal aim of the author, who perpetuates a familial tradition (the first Norwegian edition of the book was run by Per Brodal’s father in 1949), is “to stimulate understanding rather than memorization of isolated facts” and “[to foster] a realistic attitude toward our still limited ability to explain the marvels of the human brain.”
I recommend this book to all medical students, and also to more advanced clinicians who wish to refresh their knowledge in basic neurosciences or as a useful tool for teaching their younger colleagues.
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