Information in the Brain: A Molecular Perspective
Ira B. Black, 1994

From an interest in philosophy, psychology, or behavior, one often turns to the brain as the original organ. However, the very complexity typically forces a focussing, a narrowing of the interests to genes or molecules or cells, or some other detailed system. This book will step back and try to encompass a broader picture. The road will not be easy. No common framework or vocabulary or general theory has developed which interrelates mind, brain, and behavior. Neuroscience is mechanical if it does not address questions in psychology and cognition. The mind sciences are sterile without a firm footing in the physical domain.

However, there is hope. Some have attempted to understand cognitive function in neurobiological terms. Computational models have incorporated some features of neural structure. Neuron and synapse are emerging as unexpectedly dynamic. The biochemistry of information processing and storage is being considered. Molecules are signalling devices which receive, encode, store and transmit information. Changing chemical pathways are impressed on a substrate of relative gross anatomic stability.

The task is to define the fundamental structural units of function which form the basis of the representational system of the brain. Although the book hardly constitutes a molecular biology for psychologists or a psychiatry for biochemists, one of the goals is to contribute to interdisciplinary inquiry. If any common ground is found beyond the concerns of a single field, then that goal will have been realized.

Chapter 1. A General Introduction to Communicative Symbols

The Functionalist Paradigm

Functionalist Fallacy and Muddled Metaphor

Relationship of Hypothetical Hardware and Software

Structure and Function: Dynamics of Neural Architecture

Communication, Growth, and Altered Architecture: Emerging Unity

The Connectionist Program: A Response to Functionalism

Reductionist Programs

Structure and Function in Brain and Mind


Communicative Symbols in the Nervous System

Temporal Dimension and Communicative Symbols

Molecular Structures and Neural Systems Organization

Mental Function and Cell Biology

Chapter 2. A General Introduction to a Specific Synapse: Definitions and Explanations




Catecholamine Receptors

Presynaptic Receptors: Unconventional Communication

Termination of Catecholamine Action

Catecholamine Phenotypic Expression

Coexpression of Catecholaminergic and Peptidergic Phenotypes

Long-Term Synaptic Change

Chapter 3. The Molecules: Transmitters as Prototypes

Symbolic Function is System Specific

Properties of Molecular Symbols

Communicative Functions

Communicative Symbols and Transducer Molecules

Enzyme Activation

Enzyme Induction

Chapter 4. From Molecule to Brain Function and Behavior

Molecular Symbols and the Behavior-Motor Interface

Form and Content in Behavior

Chapter 5. Combinatorial Strategies at the Synapse

Electrochemical Coding

Combinatorial Transmitter Storage

Differential Transmitter Expression and Metabolism

Combinatorial Systems in the Adrenal Medulla Model System

Combinatorial Potential in the Brain: Mechanistic Considerations

Interpretations and Implications

Chapter 6. Molecules and Modularity of Brain Function

Arginine Vasopressin: A Simple Model Molecule

Polyproteins and Opiate Peptides: POMC

Other Opiate Polyproteins

Genomic Organization of Polyproteins

The Polyprotein Module in Invertebrates

Some General Considerations

Chapter 7. Molecules and Systems: Trophic Interactions

NGF, Peripheral Systems, and Function

NGF and Systems Relations

Characteristics of the NGF Molecule

Trophic Interactions in the Brain

NGF, Acetylcholine, and Memory

NGF and Other Brain Systems

Other Trophic Molecules in the Brain

Chapter 8. Modularity of Brain Function: Psychologic, Anatomic, and Molecular Domains

Modularity in Split-Brain Patients

Modularity and Disconnection Syndromes

Disconnection and Modularity in Parkinson's Disease

Modularity in Subhuman Primates: Some Molar-Molecular Relationships


Chapter 9. Symbols and Regulatory Biology

Metazoan Effector Molecules and Neural Function

Complex Metazoan Forms

A Parazoan Nervous System?

Coelenterates and the Conventional Nervous System

Primitive Systems: Growth and Trophic Function

Some Implications

Chapter 10. Symbols, Self, and Subjectivity

Psychologic Function

A Profusion of Levels

Some Implications

Self and Subjectivity

The Frontal Lobes and the Priciple of Reciprocity

Frontal-Dopaminergic Connections

Interactions among Individuals

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