the liver and the brain

r norman rsn_ at _comcast.net
Thu Sep 2 19:00:52 EST 2004

On Thu, 2 Sep 2004 17:38:47 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
<gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>>I'll say it again - you are neglecting what research in neuroscience is
>>and always has been dependent upon - the careful management and
>>measurement of *behaviour*.
>T: If, by behavior, you mean the observable external behavior of the
>organism whose nervous system is being examined, I have to disagree. A lot
>of research in neuroscience is not at all dependent on external behavior.
>Heck, a lot of it is conducted in vitro.
>GS: A distinction is frequently made between neuroscience and its
>subordinate category, behavioral neuroscience. Needless to say, behavioral
>neuroscience generally involves the use of animals and
>measurement/manipulation of their behavior as well as physiology. When you
>consider the number of behavioral pharmacologists as well, then you have a
>very large field. The number that do in vitro stuff only, or use animals as
>"fuzzy beakers," is probably much larger than those who publish behavioral
>data, or where behavioral manipulations are germane to the physiological
>dependent variables. Maybe R. Norman has some idea on the proportions.

I don't know the relative populations sizes of the diverse groups of
neurobiologists, but I do know that the field is incredibly diverse.
There are biophysicists and molecular biologists, biochemists and
pharmacologists, developmental biologists, anatomists, and cellular
physiologists all looking at basic mechanisms of operation of the
neural machinery.  On the organismal end there are the clinically
oriented group including neurologists and psychiatrists and the
biologically oriented group including comparative physiologists and
physiological ecologists.  There are behaviorally oriented people from
including a whole spectrum of psychologists dealing with experimental,
developmental, and clinical issues and ethologists dealing with
natural behavior in the field, ecological, and evolutionary issues.
There are cognitive scientists of many different stripes and neural
modelers varying from those who try to incorporate all the biophysical
and biochemical nuances of real cells to those who create neural nets
with only passing resemblance to physiology.

If you look at standard texts of Neurobiology or attend meetings of
the Society for Neuroscience, virtually all of the work is cellular
and subcellular.  People who do purely behavioral stuff don't usually
call themselves neurobiologists, but rather psychologists or animal
behaviorists or ethologists or cognitive scientists who work in

The people looking units of the cell and below do not actually study
behavior.  But the goal of all is still to understand the machinery of
the brain and so to understand how it mediates the activities of the
organism, its behavior.

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