Student review: Controversies in Cognitive Neuroscience

November 8, 2012

Author: Scott Slotnick

Edition: First

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Pages: 240

Price: £65.00 and £26.99

ISBN: 9780230301108 and 1115

Aimed at advanced students with a particular interest in cognitive neuroscience, this textbook is centred on the debates around several current topics including some of the possible brain regions involved in face processing, long-term and working memory, and visual attentional modulation, word processing, mental imagery and animacy processing.

Scott Slotnick aims to encourage critical thinking and the evaluation of views currently accepted by the majority of scholars in the field by providing evidence for the majority and minority views followed by counterpoints and a brief conclusion for each debate. Although he is successful in covering these debates, much of the text is focused on very specific issues, with only brief mentions of how such arguments apply more generally to the field.

Individual chapters are accessible, and make good use of diagrams to explain experimental work and illustrate regions of the brain, without the need for lengthy, detailed descriptions. Most chapters also contain a table summarising functional magnetic resonance imagery activity in regions of interest across the studies under discussion. This is particularly useful as an overview of the presented evidence.

There is a good balance of evidence presented for the majority and minority views, regardless of the side of the fence the author sits on, and the book includes studies using a variety of techniques. However, at times it may be appropriate for lecturers to suggest alternative views, as the debates presented here can appear slightly black and white.

When the text is read in its entirety, several themes are repeated, such as assumptions based on localisation and selectivity, and the use of techniques to map spatial coordinates of brain regions versus temporal dynamics. These assumptions are vital in understanding and evaluating theories across cognitive neuroscience, but appear sidelined in this text. A more thorough review of major assumptions, presented prior to specific debates, would have benefited many readers and provided more structure to the text as a whole.

Controversies in Cognitive Neuroscience assumes a fairly high level of previous knowledge, so some students may struggle to fully understand the implications of certain of the findings reported, particularly those that require more technical knowledge of imaging techniques or neural pathways. Fortunately, the author has summarised the main arguments simply and concisely throughout, meaning that readers of all levels can gain some insight into each debate.

Who is it for? Advanced undergraduate/graduate-level psychology or neuroscience students.

Presentation: Generic.

Would you recommend it? Yes, for undergraduates with an interest in cognitive neuroscience.

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