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Looking for degree type structure for learning neuroscience.

John McCormack jpmccor at otsi.com
Fri Jul 24 12:01:31 EST 1998

F. Frank LeFever wrote:

> An abitious undertaking!

Yeah, it is all right.  That is why I need to do it right by learning the
basics.  If I jump into the deep end I'll end up not understanding a lot of
what I'm reading and will eventually be turned off.

> UNLESS you live near a
> college bookstore which has lists of texts indexed by courses each
> semester.

That's a good idea, I live in San Francisco so I have Stanford, Berkeley
and UCSF near me.  I'll check these three out for courses and their college
bookstores for the book lists.

> In a sense, you have already outline the beginnings of a foormal course
> sequence, i.e. basic courses in chemistry, physics, biology, etc.;
> certainly an introductory psych text, which should include suggested
> further readings in special areas, e.g. experimental psych,
> physiological psych, learning, motivation, etc.

Yes, but a basic course in Chemistry is still very large, I need to know
what I can cut out and what I should concentrate on.  I guess I should know
how molecules bond together for example, but do I need to learn capillary
action ?.   If I had a chemistry course geared towards a course on the
nervous system, this would cut out the unnecessary chemistry areas.  Same
for the other fields.

> Are you saying you are starting without any college courses?  This is
> difficult, because it's not just a matter of reading--you need a chance
> to try out your ideas in clsssroom discussion and/or papers and get
> feedback as to validiity of your approach and interpretation.  I tthink
> some of the off-the-wall postings we get in this newsgroup may be due
> to much reading witthout this sort of criticism, eventualy producing
> some strange mixtures of fact and nonsense and no discipline for
> disentangling the two.

That's true.  However, I have a degree in Computer Science and the one
thing I really learned in college is that the lecturers are very limited in
their knowledge.  Perhaps I was just unlucky, or maybe the courses I was
learning were very basic and didn't require extensive knowledge, but what
it came down to was the lecturers giving us notes out of text books, or us
reading text books.  The lecturers usually had their own course notes that
they would feed us with bit by bit over the year.  In a lot of cases it
would have been easier to replace the lecturer with a photocopier.  I'm not
putting down the lecturers, it's just the way a degree course is, a broad
array of basic subjects that provide a foundation for real study later on.
For neuroscience, the basics have been accepted for hundreds of years, so I
don't think initially that I need any feedback on ideas.  I shouldn't have
any independent ideas until I understand the basics first.  Once I have
this degree course done, I can begin to study the brain in detail.  At that
stage I will come across conflicting theories by different people, and will
need independent thought, and feedback from different sources.   But I'm a
long way away from that stage.  College at this point would be a complete
waste of time.  All I need is the course content and book lists.

> IF you have sufficient background in this sort of academic give and
> take, you MIGHT be able to learn quite a lot by plunging into some
> neuroscience articles (e.g. in the journal Nature, the popular magazine
> Scientific American, journals such as Brain, Neuropsychologia, etc.,
> etc.) and looking for terms you don't understand in basic texts--i.e.,
> almost the reverse of the more formal plan.

No.  This way I would learn some big words to impress the people in my
local bar, but I will never really learn anything.  I read these articles
but quickly get lost.  I need to start at the beginning.

Thanks for the advice, I'll have a look for booklists in college bookshops.


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