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Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide
Authors: Bernard J. Baars and Nicole M. Gage
ISBN 13:
Academic Press/ Elsevier    2012
List Price: $59.95  Soft Cover    463 Pages
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MedicalScienceBooks.com Medical Book Review:

     Instructors of undergraduate neuroscience courses with general cell function and action potential transmission as main topics have several excellent textbooks available for adoption.  However, those with a slightly more focused objective such as cognitive neuroscience often need to use a combination of readings from a selection of sources that individually donít quite cover the course syllabus.  Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience:  A Beginnerís Guide is a resource which surveys the intersection of cognitive psychology and basic neuroscience, and fills the gap in specialized neuroscience texts suitable for undergraduate students. 

     The text is organized into 14 chapters which prominently feature the processes by which the brain perceives sound and interprets light in vision.  There are also several chapters on more traditional cognitive topics like learning and memory and language.  A visually appealing illustration program is used throughout the book with the majority of figures and charts appearing in full bright color.  Each chapter begins with an outline and ends with a summary and small set of review questions.  Although these review and study features are standard on textbooks, there are a few interesting aspects unique to this text.  Several chapters include some drawing exercises which are intended to help the student remember steps in a process or regions of the brain involved with those processes.  In some instances the student is given a colored chart with blank spaces over the major information and asked to fill in the steps and names which is a highly effective pedagogical strategy for increased retention.  Regardless of style of question, the color illustration program facilitates the study of the material while clarifying some relatively complex concepts.  Other useful features include a glossary at the end of the book and an insert fold out brain map.

     Stylistically, the text uses as little jargon as possible and keeps in mind the intended audience of advanced undergraduate students.  The level of detail covered is sufficient in many areas such as visual processing to be used as a refresher for graduate students involved in researching a parallel field or even for use in a medical school neuroscience course.  However, the majority of the text is decidedly best used in the undergraduate population whom need not necessarily have taken a prior neuroscience course due to the care taken in the introductory chapters to build a foundation of need- to- know information.  The illustrations complement the text well and include informative descriptions.  Also of note in the brain imaging sections is the use of three dimensional computer generated models.  For example, the reader can see the relationship of the thalamus to the cerebral cortex both in coronal and sagittal sections.

     Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience:  A Beginnerís Guide should be widely used as the required text in focused cognitive neuroscience courses taught at the undergraduate level.  Additionally, the information it contains will likely be of use to those professors teaching a variety of psychology and biology elective courses and should be consulted for applicable reading material due to its clarity and style.

Ratings (1-10 , 10 being the highest):

Overall Rating:


Authorís objectives met:



Organization of information: 8
Significant number of illustrations: 9
Suitable for intended audience: 9
Overall presentation: 8
Quality of illustrations: 8
Usefulness of book:   8
Value: 9
Writing style: 9



 This introductory text offers a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to cognitive neuroscience. Chapters cover all aspects of the field - the neural framework, sight, sound, consciousness, learning/memory, problem solving, speech, executive control, emotions, socialization and development - in a student-friendly format with extensive pedagogy and ancillaries to aid both the student and professor. Throughout the text, case studies and everyday examples are used to help students understand the more challenging aspects of the material. Written by two leading experts in the field, the text takes a unique thematic approach, guiding students along a clear path to understand the latest findings whether or not they have a background in neuroscience.

Table of Contents:

  1. Mind and Brain
  2. A Framework
  3. The Nerve Cell
  4. The Brain
  5. Imaging the Brain
  6. The Art of Seeing
  7. Sound, Speech, and Music
  8. The Brain is Conscious (Sometimes)
  9. The Brain Learns
  10. Thinking
  11. Speaking
  12. The Central Executive: Decisions, Goals, and Actions
  13. Feelings and the Social Brain
  14. Growing Up: Development

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