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R A Barker, S Barasi, and M J Neal. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2003, £14.95, pp 122. ISBN 1-405-11124-0
As the organiser of an integrated neuroscience course for undergraduates it was with great interest that I reviewed this book. The new curriculum that has been brought forward in most medical schools in the UK has followed on from the model developed in the US. The principle behind this is to integrate clinical and basic science material all through the course so that students learn the significance of basic science core knowledge in a clinical context and visa versa.
This textbook is ideal for integrated course teaching. It sets out the basic science in each area and then addresses the implication of this along side. It is nicely structured in a way that is comprehensible to medical students and sits well with most course structures. For example, it has five main headings, such, as the anatomical and functional organisation of the nervous system, sensory systems, motor systems, and so on. Each sub-system is then divided into appropriate sub-sections, for example the cerebellum, the cortical motor areas, and so on. Each sub-section has one A4 set of diagrams pictorially illustrating the subject with text on the facing page. All of this makes for easy reading and quick comprehension. The authors modestly say that this is more of a revision or review text rather than a comprehensive textbook. However, the core curriculum at my institution would be well served by such a textbook and if a medical student knows the basis of this book he or she will be well ahead of peers.
I took the opportunity of showing this textbook to a number of my students who in fact had already had the first edition and were very familiar with the book. All were whole heartedly approving. The only minor quibble I have with the book is that the epilepsy section is particularly scanty. While the pathogenesis of epilepsy is still largely unknown, there is considerable room in the text for a better elucidation of some of the more up to date theories. For example, the new genetic advances have thrown light on disorders of ion channels in idiopathic generalised epilepsies, and the way mesial temporal sclerosis leads to neuronal network reorganisation.
Otherwise, I can’t commend the book highly enough and it should be on the bookshelves of all medical schools in the UK.