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The Autonomic Nervous Sysem and its Effectors

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    The Autonomic Nervous Sysem and its Effectors. By a brading. (Pp 370, £59.50). Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1999. ISBN0 632 02624 3.

    There is something about the autonomic nervous system that causes undergraduate students and doctors alike to lose interest, switch off and for their eyes to glaze over. Professor Alison Brady suggests in her preface that this is due to “uninspired teaching and inadequate coverage in many textbooks“. Although one can only imagine that Professor Brady is an exception to the first generalisation, this book, an obvious labour of love, is a brave attempt to correct the second.

    The text is best suited to the physiology undergraduate student, medical or otherwise. Certain chapters will also appeal to the specialist registrar starting out in areas such as cardiology, respiration, gastroenterology and, of course, neurology. It is concisely written in a style that is willing the student to stay with her, to follow her logic and read on and beautifully illustrated with clear diagrams and cartoons as well as many good quality electron micrographs.

    Although Brading herself is based in Oxford, much of Gaskell and Langley's pioneering study of the autonomic nervous system was in Cambridge around 100 years ago. This book begins with a historical overview to set what follows in historical perspective. Then follow chapters on anatomy, neuromuscular, and synaptic transmission, the molecules involved and their function, and finally, the relevant body systems. This is not a clinical textbook but mention is made of possible pharmacological manipulation of the autonomic nervous system where appropriate.

    If you have always wanted to get to grips with the autonomic nervous system but have found the available literature too dry or antiquated, now's your chance!

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