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This is one of the best Neuroscience books of all time, written by a true genius/polymath of our time, who is just a walking encyclopedia of scientific knowledge. This is a must-read for all who wish to understand how the brain works - from aspiring students to seasoned experts, and interested lay public to forward-thinking funding agencies.
Dr. Buzsáki presents a profound and critical re-assessment of systems level Neuroscience research today, calling for a paradigm shift from the prevailing “outside-in” perspective (i.e., characterizing neuronal functions by externally delivered stimuli or preconceived psychological notions) to an alternative “inside-out” framework (centered on internally generated network oscillations).
The author flips the traditional view of perception-action cycle around and argues that it is the action that grounds all incoming perceptual inputs, that it is the active exploration of environment that provides meaning to the neural information being processed.
The early chapters lay out the foundation of this paradigm-shifting argument, amply supported by a comprehensive review of much of Systems Neuroscience, especially the notion of corollary discharge from motor/frontal cortex to sensory/association cortex. This idea is prescient, as recent data from cortex-wide and brain-wide large-scale neural recordings have shown that this action-centered grounding may very well be correct.
The middle chapters lead readers on a deep dive into the world of brain rhythms, the hippocampal place cell system, the logic and mechanisms of gain control in neural network operation. They are filled with gems of knowledge, complete with detailed footnotes on various subtle aspects and entertaining anecdotes. Reading through the chapters, I’ve gained an integrated understanding of all these various pieces of information that I’ve encountered over the years. It is as if having conversed with a wise sage, which I imagine Dr. Buzsáki must be.
In the final chapters, Dr. Buzsáki presents new ideas on the log-normal distributions found in all aspects of neuronal organization and how they support a new unified theory of fast and slow dynamics in the brain. He also lays out a radical new idea that the “inside-out” perspective suggests that learning is not an internalized representation of experiences but a matching process between the internally generated neural network patterns and environmental stimuli - an inborn dictionary of words devoid of meaning that is matched with their meanings through an individual’s exploration of its environment in each unique lifetime.
Overall, the book is profound and full of both wisdom for both science and beyond. It challenges one’s notion of how the brain and the world work, and it inspires new ideas for discussion and experiments. This is a book that should be read by all, for both comprehensive scientific knowledge and deep intellectual reward.
Gyorgy Buzsaki's new book, "The Brain from Inside Out," teaches us non-neuroscientists how physical matter in the brain makes the magic happen. The ideas are covered at an undergraduate level.
According to the inside-out approach, all training in the brain is built on pre-existing oscillations and dynamics, which are present at birth. These pre-existing dynamics support Chomsky's and others claims that the brain is pre-wired for language and other skills. Buzsaki's hypothesis is that pre-existing brain structure at birth affords an action-perception cycle precipitated by action. This model disputes the existing but more intuitive hypothesis of a perception-action cycle precipitated by perception. Throughout the text, Buzsaki provides example after example from many experiments (from his own lab and others), that support his action-perception model. Everything humans are good at can be thought about as an action-perception cycle, from language to planning.
During the action-perception cycle the brain acts, predicts, and then compares its predictions to perceptions. Ten levels of brain oscillations, from 1/40 Hz to 600 Hz, "train" self-organization of cell assemblies that build neural syntax. This neural syntax builds representations as proxies for space and time, even concepts. Throughout the narrative, we learn why most signals in the brain are based on logarithmic scales, why the brain's network structure is the way that it is, what a "corollary discharge" is (essentially a signal that the brain sends to its sensors to tell them to stop working!), and many other fascinating pieces of neuroscience.
The book is easily accessible, requiring only a high school level of mathematics. Scores of diagrams and plots highlight experiments and concepts. The writing is clear and passionate. In various places Buzsaki takes a tangent or two into personal stories about his career or how he was motivated by his early mentors and professors. At one point he tells an amusing story about how, for a long stretch of time, he remained ignorant of Khaneman's famous cognitive bias results, and how this ignorance led to an embarrassing event. Fun stuff.
Buzsaki also shows how the two most important recent discoveries from neuroscience, place cells and grid cells, fit into his inside-out paradigm. While the book does not cover every recent discovery in neuroscience, this book along with Buzsaki's earlier "Rhythms of the Brain" can cover plenty of ground. His books provide the level of breadth, technical detail, and inspiration needed to satisfy general curiosity or an ascent into brain-inspired research.
This book is a worthy follow up to the classic Rhythms of the Brain. It is written with deep insight, reflecting decades of the author's experience in research of the brain. It is an elegant book offering a cornucopia of empiric findings tied together by the silver lining of its author's deep understanding of the workings of the brain.
The main argument of this book is that the brain is primarily a motor control tool for the organism rather than a medium for symbolic representation of the objective external world. Its main job is to generate actions and predict the consequences of these actions. Buzsaki rejects the general accepted objectivistic view of the stimulus as the primary initiator for the cognitive action.
Buzsaki states: "brain evolved not to represent anything but to help its body to survive and reproduce." It does this by connecting itself with the world through Merleau-Ponty's action-perception arc facilitated by corollary discharges rather than accepted "outside-in" view of brain-as-a-computer metaphor. I wish more contemporary neural scientists would embrace this view.
Buzsaki observes that muscles are the second cell type in the body that can rapidly change their membrane potential and generate an action potential. He compares fly's zig-zag flight patterns to saccadic patterns of mammal vision. His neuronal assembly concept goes way beyond Hebb's (or Hayek's) view in that, in his view, the principal cells in the neural assembly need not be anatomically connected. He makes the observation that brain areas in charge of generating plans share many similarities with the motor cortex and embraces Bernstein's muscle synergies and favors multiple coordinate systems rather than a single master coordinates. His contribution to the ongoing discussion of hippocampal sharp-wave-ripples alone qualifies him as a true pioneer in the field and rightfully comprises significant portions of the book. No one understands "Rhythms of the Brain" better than he does.
There are two metaphors Buzsaki embraces that I disagree with: The first is the view that neuronal syntax is similar to the Chomskian language syntax where "words" and "sentences" are embedded in beta and gamma brain oscillations. Chomsky himself has a low opinion of neural science and is not troubled by the fact that to this day, no one found neural structures in the brain responsible for the generation of "universal" syntax structures. Chomsky's work was soundly and brilliantly criticized in the 1980s by George Lakoff, who replaced his abstract generative syntax with much more embodied theory, more amenable to action-perception view Buzsaki embraces. Ironically, Lakoff collaborated for a while with the seminal Berkeley neural scientist Walter Freeman, only to replace in the end the motor grounded neural science with symbolic AI structures. A.M Liberman's motor theory of language does a much better job in proving Lakoff right.
The second metaphor Buzsaki embraces is the view of the brain as a circuit in which symbolic messages are transmitted between the neurons via axonal synaptic connections, rather than a view of the brain as a dynamic field maintained by resonance and coupling through electric dipoles formed by high-speed transmembrane ion channels, i.e., ephapsis. In my view, the concept of information processing grounded in static neural circuits processing symbolic representations of the objective world is incompatible with Merleau-Ponty's theory. While Buzsaki comes close to Merleau-Ponty's view, in the end, he concludes that the "brain's ability to manipulate models of the external world is a prerequisite for cognition."
Nevertheless, both of these metaphors, while unhelpful, are pervasive in the western world, and "everyone lives by" them. Buzsaki's embrace of either does not detract from the significant contribution of this major work. Highly Recommended.
"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" is a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, criticizing anti-evolution creationism and espousing theistic evolution. Professor Buzsaki (throughout the whole book, and on p. 350 in Ch. 13) argues for and models his "Inside-out" hypothesis of how the brain evolves both endogenously and exogenously following the close footsteps of many great neuroscientists, especially, G. Edelman (the reentrant or multilayer neuronal group synchronization) loops in Neural Darwinism, 1987) who successfully explained the dynamic functional operation of the immune system and for which he won the1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His collected empirical data supports for the observed log-normal distribution and hence violates the general principle of scale invariance, scale free power law network, found in many biological behaviors. Will this exception shed some new light on the brain functions? This and "Rhythms of the Brain" are a great read for modern neural- or not neuroscientists and curious minded public.
Professor Buszaki is an important neuroscientist who writes well and clearly on a great topic, the relationship between the conscious self and the brain. We are seeing something of a scientific renaissance in this field, and the book's title captures it well. We all live in our conscious brains, roughly speaking, and it is news to us when we can catch a glimpse of the naturalistic reality of what we go through from moment to moment. Philosophers have often made it seem impossible to know about ourselves, except for Socrates, who used the slogan "Know yourself." Because our brains are so complex, so often unconscious and unexpected, self-knowledge is a lifetime study. But artists, philosophers, humanists and scientists are filling in the gaps in our understanding. This is not a reductionistic book, because it's not describably in pure atoms and cells. Many levels of explanation are useful to understand the mind. This book is highly recommended for scientists and humanists alike.
How do brains work? We still do not know; but if you want to get a picture of how far science has reached, you should buy “The brain from inside out”. Buzsaki takes grip on the big questions in a precise, un-opinionated way and often from an angle that opens wider perspectives. He, himself a Brain Prize winner, is refreshingly self-critical and show how scientists repetitively pursue unfruitful hypotheses and take speculations as given facts. The answers on how brain works cannot come from speculations, traditional psychology, and regarding the brain as an advanced radio receiver driven by external stimuli. No, the brain should be examined and tested as mainly constructed for action and pursuing goals, hence the title. The mechanisms responsible for action and interpreting the surrounds mainly originate from the brain itself. These mechanics he then exposes in a series of easily accessible chapters, albeit with rich notes also for the specialist neuroscientist.
Per E. Roland Professor in Neurodynamics University of Copenhagen Denmark
This book helped me understand why there is so much confusion in our diagnostic terms of psychiatric diseases. Practicing psychiatrists treat patients with their unique constellation of symptoms rather than arbitrary diagnostic categories. Similar to the concocted terms in neuroscience, psychiatry created many artificial divisions on the basis of assumed mechanisms with imagined boundaries of brain mechanisms. Buzsaki's book confirmed the intuition that understanding psychiatric diseases should start with the brain and its interaction with the body and the environment.