We Know It When We See It: What the Neurobiology of Vision Tells Us About How We Think

Basic : Perseus. Mar. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781541618503. $30. SCI
Masland (neuroscience, Harvard Medical Sch.) here asks, “How do our brains perform object recognition?” In order to answer that question, one has to understand how vision works and also how the brain makes sense of the outside world. To that end, Masland explains in depth a great number of concepts, from the basic function of neurons and retinal ganglion cells to the theory of nerve nets within the brain. Masland’s enthusiasm and love for the field of neuroscience are apparent throughout the text. Included are a plethora of interesting anecdotes gathered over a lifetime of scientific work. However, it does require stamina for the layperson to wade through the dense scientific explanations provided. While the question is simple—how do we know it when we see it?—it turns out the answer is complex.
VERDICT Recommended only for those with a strong science background or the patience to unpack the richly detailed scientific explanations. For those readers, Masland provides a well-researched exploration of a fascinating question.

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