01 December 2006

Rhythms of the Brain

All the things that humans have done since the dawn of civilisation have come about because of the rhythmic electro-pulsing inside the cranial vault. Scientific knowledge of the oscillatory language of the brain is accruing rapidly. In Rhythms of the Brain:

Gyorgy Buzsaki guides the reader from the physics of oscillations through neuronal assembly organization to complex cognitive processing and memory storage. His clear, fluid writing accessible to any reader with some scientific knowledge is supplemented by extensive footnotes and references that make it just as gratifying and instructive a read for the specialist. The coherent view of a single author who has been at the forefront of research in this exciting field, this volume is essential reading for anyone interested in our rapidly evolving understanding of the brain.

Chris at the excellent neuroblog Develintel gives a very favorable review:

"Rhythms of the Brain" begins with the premise that "structure defines function," and then outlines how the architectural principles of neural networks can give rise to neural oscillations. In the process, he meticulously covers topics like the complex, small-world, scale-free connectivity of cortex without resorting to complicated equations - the concepts are carefully grounded in real-world analogies and lay terms.

Buzsáki introduces several other topics that are usually found only in mathematically sophisticated academic works on the brain: for example, how "neural noise" can actually enhance processing through stochastic resonance and the 1/f or "pink noise" signature of EEG, mechanisms of "phase precession" and "phase reset" within nested oscillations, and the difference between relaxation and harmonic oscillators.

This appears to be a very important book, on a topic that bears on recent discussions in comments here. Although I have not yet read the book, I intend to, and based upon Chris Chatham's recommendation, if you are interested in how the brain works, you should consider reading it as well.

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