Neuroscience is a field of study which deals with the structure, function, development, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology and pathology of the nervous system. The study of behavior and learning is also a division of neuroscience.
The biological study of the human brain is an interdisciplinary field which involves many levels of study, from the molecular level through the cellular level (individual neurons), the level of relatively small assemblies of neurons like cortical columns, that of larger subsystems like that which subserves visual perception, up to large systems like the cerebral cortex or the cerebellum, and at the highest level the nervous system as a whole.
At this highest level, neuroscientific approaches combine with cognitive science to create cognitive neuroscience, a discipline first populated mostly by cognitive psychologists, currently becoming a dynamic specialty of its own. Some researchers believe that cognitive neuroscience provides a bottom-up approach to understanding the mind and consciousness that is complementary to, or may replace, the top-down approach of psychology.
The concern of neuroscience includes such diverse topics as
- the operation of neurotransmitters at the synapse;
- the biological mechanisms that underlie learning (both declarative learning and motor learning);
- how genes contribute to neural development in the embryo and throughout life
- the operation of relatively simpler neural structures of other organisms like marine snails;
- and the structure and functioning of complex neural circuits in perceiving, remembering, and speaking.
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