A strong brew with no sweeteners

The Developing Brain
October 4, 2002

This book aims to integrate our classical knowledge of brain development with the profusion of molecular (gene-identity and function) data that has been acquired over the past ten years. The "naming of genes" is therefore an obvious advance since the classic text Principles of Neural Development by Dale Purves and Jeff Lichtman (1985).

Unlike Purves and Lichtman's book, and most modern texts, illustrations in this volume are limited to what could reasonably be chalked on a board. The simple schematics are useful, but an absence of the spectacular photo-micrographs that distinguish this field is disappointing. Indeed, flicking through this book for the good bits is a pretty fruitless exercise. There are also no links to electronic media.

As a teaching text, The Developing Brain is suitable for neuroscience and anatomy/cell biology courses, and also for advanced research projects within medical degrees. Technical detail is brief, and many students will require back-up from more fundamental texts than the specialist reviews and primary papers that are cited in abundance. The text is also complicated by "biology's name game" - alternative, and often strange, gene names that derive from the various worms, flies and mice used as model organisms.

It is truly a textbook that reflects the target audience of advanced students and research workers who, with an appreciation of the elegance of this field, do not require sweeteners. For such an audience, this admirable and scholarly work will be of tremendous value in defining our understanding and indicating the way forward.

David A. Carter is reader in neuroscience, Cardiff University.

The Developing Brain

Author - Michael Brown, Roger Keynes and Andrew Lumsden
ISBN - 0 19 854793 5
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £24.99
Pages - 454

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