Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC)

Hersenwerk

Neurowetenschappen in de 21ste eeuw

30 November 2017

Max van der Linden in collaboration with Sander Bosch, Jolien Francken, Simon van Gaal, Andrea Manneke, Suzanne Oosterwijk and Annemie Ploeger

Since the nineties, crowned as the 'Decade of the brain', the neurosciences have developed rapidly. In our society the influence of new findings seeps through: brain research plays a role in marketing, education, healthcare and justice. It also influences how we think about ourselves: we search for answers to fundamental questions such as who we are and how we act often in the brain.

In Hersenwerk, seven young neuroscientists describe in an accessible way the most recent methods and insights from their field. And how are these techniques used in society? They also reflect on the boundaries of current brain research. Can we really get to know ourselves by just looking at the brain? Which neurotechnologies were hyped in recent years and why? In this book they provide a fascinating picture of the turbulent developments in the neurosciences at the beginning of the 21st century.

Many kinds of scientists have been trying for centuries to unravel the mystery of our brain. But something special has happened in recent decades. Without any exaggeration it can be said that neuroscience has become a global, interdisciplinary and highly technological melting pot.

Worldwide, tens of thousands of neuroscientists - from psychologists to physicists and from biologists to computer scientists - use state-of-the-art high-tech equipment and super-fast computers to study our brains meticulously, aided by huge sums of money from various governments. Our brain has literally become big science.

The history of the neurosciences is characterized by a steady improvement of methods and techniques to study the brain. While brain researchers were only able to perceive the brain with the naked eye at the beginning of the nineteenth century and their manipulations were still rude, neuroscientists can now observe activity in the smallest brain structures with advanced microscopes. The history of the neurosciences also shows us a paradox: the better and more sophisticated we can manipulate and register the brain, the more it becomes clear how unimaginably complex it is. Perhaps the brain is so complex that in the future we will run into the limits of our own understanding. The neuroscientific progress of the past fifty years has shown us at least that putting a man on the moon is much simpler than our neuroscientific journey to inner space.

Hersenwerk is not so much a 'brain book' that explains in a popularizing way the working of the brain, but rather a book that describes how the neurosciences work. That is an important difference with many other books. We want to show with this book how neuroscientists do research. What kind of methods do they use? What are the possibilities and limitations of this? What theories do they have about the brain? How do methods and theory influence each other? By reading about the neurosciences, you not only learn a lot about the brain, but also about the way in which this knowledge has come about.

Whether we will ultimately succeed in cracking the neural code of ourselves cannot be predicted, but the way in which we use our intelligence and technology in the 21st century to visualize the activity of our own brain and to capture it scientifically is already very fascinating. Hopefully this book will provide a good insight into the immense work that neuroscientists now perform to better understand the functioning of our brain.

 

Published by  Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC)