Historical Background & Free Book

In 1952 my father had a lacunar stroke  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacunar_stroke .  It completely destroyed our family's already tenuous emotional stability, and my mother began showing an interest psychotherapy.  It never happened, but she began pointing me towards articles about psychology in the popular literature such as Readers Digest, and, in 1957, I took the first of many college level psychology classes. While they were a good introduction, they left me feeling unsatisfied.  Because so little was known about the nervous and endocrine systems, the early pioneers in the field, such as William James , Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers were limited to considering human thoughts and behavior after they had manifested themselves. They were unable to say much about the underlying mechanisms. 

Our understanding of ourselves has expanded enormously in just the last 50 to 100 years, and this includes our understanding of our nervous and endocrine systems. Yet very little of this new information was included in any of the psychology classes I took. So, on my own, I went looking for psychology books that were based on the rapidly advancing new knowledge about human physiology. 

The first books I found were "Personality and Behavior" by Jesse E. Gordon and "Human Neural and Behavioral Development" by Esther Milner. These books are now very outdated, but they made it clear to me that I needed to know more about neuroanatomy. So, in 1983, I bought what was then the standard text, "Human Neuroanatomy, 8th ed." by Malcolm D. Carpenter and Jerome Sutin, and began studying it on my own. 

It was really difficult. Every specialized field has its own vocabulary, and it wasn't until I had read the book from cover to cover three times that I began to understand the language. However, I persevered, and little by little it began to make sense.

In 2006, I met some students at U.C. Berkeley who were taking a class which was looking at psychological issues from an neuroanatomical basis. Their text book was: "An Introduction to Brain and Behavior" by Bryan Kolb & Ian G. Whishaw, FIRST edition. We formed an informal study group, and I sent them 14 commentaries on the book.   

01 - Spinal Locomotor Generator    
   
02 - Crossed Circuits    

03 - Reticular Formation    

04 - Spinal Input     

05 - The Medulla    

06 - Pons & Cerebellum    

07 - Diencephalon     

08 - Midbrain    

09 - Olfactory Lobes    

10 - Cortex       

11 - Neonatal Behavior    

12 - Neurotransmitters    

*13 - Brain Development and Literacy    

*14 - Boys Without Fathers: An Endocrine Hypothesis


* Commentaries 13 & 14 were actually written before I had Kolb & Whishaw's book.  I wrote them as term papers while a student at City College of San Francisco in 2004.  So, technically, they're not commentaries on it.  However, they both consider the effect of brain on behavior, so I've begun to include them with the commentaries on the book.    


As you can see, I started back at the tail and moved forward. This is the same order in which Carpenter and Sutin organized their "Human Neuroanatomy", and it makes sense for three reasons.

First, the structures toward the tail are less complex than the structures more toward the head.

Second, the amphioxus, which provides a model of what our very early ancestors may have been like, is almost all spinal cord with just the first hints of a brain.

Third, our vertebrate ancestors, up through the amphibians, are completely lacking the last part of the brain to evolve, the cerebral cortex. 

I had expected to breeze through the subcortical part of our brain and concentrate on its interaction with the cortex. However, the subcortical brain has proven to be much more complicated and difficult to understand than I had expected.   Hence, this website. 

 


FREE BOOK 

"An Introduction to Brain and Behavior" by Bryan Kolb & Ian G. Whishaw, FIRST edition


If you would like a copy of the above book, send me a postal address. I will then send it to you. Now that a second edition has come out, the first edition is available via the internet for almost nothing, and I have several here at home. 

I will cite references to "An Introduction to Brain and Behavior" by Bryan Kolb & Ian G. Whishaw, FIRST edition, as [K&W: page number]. 

On [K&W:358] the book says: "The frontal lobe of each hemisphere is responsible for planning and initiating sequences of behavior."  This is the majority view and represents a "top down" understanding of human behavior.  I will argue for a "bottom up" interpretation in which the frontal lobe plays an almost minor role in determining our behavior. 

The cerebral cortex is a relatively new evolutionary addition to our nervous systems.  Amphibians and their predecessors have no cortex at all, yet they have no trouble initiating, and perhaps even planning, sequences of behavior.  Our brains are essentially amphibian brains on top of which has been added a cerebral cortex.  Although I agree with the evolutionary framework proposed by Hughlings-Jackson, the book's discussion of behavior on [K&W:358] is very oversimplified. 

This website is an attempt to look more closely at the evolutionary framework of human behavior.  Although my original focus was the nervous system, I've come to realize that the endocrine system is at least equally important, and I intend to study, not only the brain, but also the endocrine system. 

My original expectation was that my exposition of human behavior would begin at the evolutionary level of the amphioxus.  However, it turns out that the amphioxus is far less primitive than I expected, so I'm extending the range of this site back in time to the very beginnings. 


Two Haiku

Although they are not related to this effort, here are two haiku I wrote many years ago:  


    The sea waits to rise 
as rain against the shore.  Night
    drives clouds far inland.  


    A pause in the breeze   
smooths the surface of the lake   
    which reflects the moon. 

   



CotA: Historical Background and Free Book 
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