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Biology: Brain and Behaviour—The Senses and Communication

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    Biology: Brain and Behaviour—The Senses and Communication. Edited bytim halliday. (Pp 237, £26.00). Published by Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 1998. ISBN 3-540-63775-3.

    These three books and CD-ROM form part of a six book series for the Open University course on Biology: Brain and Behaviour. Book 2,Neurobiology, covers the biophysical properties of the neuron. before dealing with neural networks and the relation of the CNS to the immune system and behaviour. Book 3 runs through the senses, with the discussion concentrating on the audition, vision, and somatosensory systems. The final book in the series deals with disease processes of the brain and mind. The books not reviewed comprise the first book in the series entitledBehaviour and Evolution and books 4 and 5 onDevelopment and Flexibility and Control of Behaviour. The six books are therefore written for a specific audience, which is clearly reflected in the format of the text and figures. However, this having been said, these books are easily accessible to other students interested in neuroscience, although the way the book is packaged and presented would put most people off purchasing them, which is a shame.

    Each chapter is clearly presented with high quality figures, which are often superior to those found in most medical neurobiology books. Furthermore, they often summarise key experimental results in a clear and concise fashion, and coupled to the well written prose, makes the book easy to understand and follow, if somewhat verbose. Questions are thrown in throughout the text and each chapter concludes with a summary, an objectives list, and a series of questions with a few key references cited. In addition, these books were impressive in their breadth of discussion within individual topics. For example, the pain section not only covers the conventional anatomical and pharmacological aspects of nociception but also discusses a range of antinociceptive treatments and strategies. As a result the reader is left with a much more balanced view than that which is traditionally presented in preclinical medical training and which is often at variance with that which is seen in clinical practice. It is this aspect of the books that is perhaps of most value and which could be applied to the new style of medical training currently being developed in this country. However constraints on time make it hard to commend all the details raised in these books, although the accompanying CD-ROM is a helpful innovation in this respect. Overall these books and CD-ROM make an attractive package which is lost to most students and teachers as a result of it being used for a specific Open University course. However, there is much of value in this series for those interested in the education of medical students.

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