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Principles of Neural Design


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Time, space, energy, and information: these are the key themes of this fascinating book, which takes the spirit of the Feynman Lectures on Physics and applies it to explain how the brain has been designed, by evolution, to process information efficiently. Unique insights, recounted in the authors' characteristically appealing style, are to be found on every page. -- David Attwell, Jodrell Professor of Physiology, University College London This is not your typical neuroscience textbook. Rather than catalogue processes and structures of the central nervous system, Sterling and Laughlin take a unique approach to interpreting the brain. They consider the general principles that have shaped brain design through natural selection, principles that make the human brain 10^5 times more efficient than the most powerful computers. Chapters examine efficient encoding of information, layout of brain circuits, and strategies for learning and memory. This overview of brain function is refreshing and insightful. -- Eric A. Newman, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota Drawing on their areas of expertise, Sterling and Laughlin have written a beautiful book addressing some simple questions about how the brain works, enriching the reader with many 'aha' moments. This transformative book brings us closer to understanding the logic that nature could be using in its design of neural circuits. And, in fact, perhaps the biggest impression from reading the book is a renewed awe for the incredible work that nature has done with nervous systems, which must be the crowning achievement of evolution. I cannot wait to use it as textbook in my course on neural circuits. -- Rafael Yuste, Professor of Biological Sciences, Columbia University

About the Author

Peter Sterling is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is the coauthor (with Simon Laughlin) of Principles of Neural Design (MIT Press). Simon Laughlin is Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the Royal Society.


The authors have been thinking deeply about the issues discussed and it shows, the neurobiology is right up-to-date, and the writing is artful, clear, and engaging. This book is a wonderful start for what will, I believe, become the standard way for conceptualizing neurobiology.

-Charles F. Stevens, Current Biology

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