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From Neuron to Brain, a book for anyone who is curious about the nervous system

20 January 2021
SISSA gives an important contribution to the new edition of the volume

The 6th Edition of From Neuron to Brain has been released. Published for the first time by Oxford University Press, the book is a readable, up-to-date companion to undergraduate, graduate, and medical school courses in neuroscience.

 “I wrote the first edition of this book more than 40 years ago with my good friend Stephen Kuffler and then we added four more editions in the between” SISSA Professor John Nicholls says. Although Professor Nicholls didn’t take part in writing the latest edition of the book, he chose the authors and wrote the foreword.  “Since the first edition, the whole purpose of the book was to be very readable” Nicholls explains. “We wanted it tell stories and dreamed students would take the book up and read from beginning to end not as a textbook but as enjoyment. It was never a comprehensive or an everything-you-need-to-know book. We wrote what we think is interesting.”

John Nicholls also notes that the book’s philosophy is for the reader to experience it as if the entire volume were written by one author: “When Kuffler and I wrote the first edition nobody could tell who had written which chapter because we were responsible for each other’s work. The idea I had was that we don’t say who wrote each chapter and in principle, no one should be able to know because every author works on every chapter. If you want to make it interesting for a reader, then each chapter should connect seamlessly with the other chapters.”

Professor Mathew Diamond of the SISSA Cognitive Neuroscience group and co-author of the 5th and the 6th editions remarks: “This is not meant to be an encyclopaedia of neuroscience nor a compendium of facts. However, if a student is interested in the series of experiments by which an area of nervous system function has been explored, this is a good source. This edition retains the theme of all earlier editions of not merely listing results and conclusions but of detailing the long research process that leads to current understanding.”

Professor Diamond is one of five authors, together with A. Robert Martin (University of Colorado School of Medicine), David A. Brown (University College of London), Antonio Cattaneo (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa) and Francisco F. De-Miguel (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico). SISSA’s contribution, in addition to professors Diamond and Nicholls, can be traced to Cattaneo, a SISSA neuroscience faculty member for many years before moving to Pisa.

 “Although the investment of time was immense – Professor Diamond adds – the authors were motivated by the influence earlier editions of this book have had on the community. When the authors contacted an investigator to request permission to use a figure, a not uncommon reply was ‘what a privilege to have my work illustrated in the very same book that inspired me to pursue a career in neuroscience.’”

The current edition of From Neuron to Brain provides entirely new sections on development, plasticity, and a number of other topics; it grew from just over 600 pages to just over 900 pages. It will be translated in different languages.

From Neuron to Brain

Photo courtesy of National Institutes of Health (NIH) on / CC BY-NC