The Brain and Neuroscience Basics

brain, science of the brain, neuroscience

Science of the Brain: How the Mind Works

It may seem like the Internet has an overwhelming number of links but it’s really quite simple compared to the human brain, which has roughly 1,000 trillion connections—about the same as the number of leaves on all the trees in a rainforest. Use the Science of the Brain Web Guide to get a head start.

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The Brain and Neuroscience Basics

The U.S. government declared the 1990s the “Decade of the Brain,” and the amount and quality of information on the Web have only increased since. The following sites are comprehensive, providing information on the brain and neuroscience basics.

Insights for the Brain and Neuroscience Basics

  • Even the most basic sites may contain complex scientific terminology. If you need to find the meaning of a word, first check to see if the site has its own glossary. If not, check the Serendip Glossary of Terms.
  • You can often get a good initial assessment of the site’s content and complexity by checking its source. Sites created by professional societies and universities usually contain fairly advanced scientific information. Sites put out by nonprofit organizations or government institutes usually cater more to the general public. 

Top Sites for the Brain and Neuroscience Basics

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The Structure and Functions of the Brain

There is such a wealth of information on the Internet on the topics of neuroanatomy (brain structures) and brain functions that typing any of these terms into a search engine will generate tens of thousands of hits. This section can help streamline your search, highlighting some of the best sites on the structure and functions of the brain.

Insights for the Structure and Functions of the Brain

  • When researching sites other than those recommended here, it’s a good idea to look for a copyright date at the bottom of the page. New brain research findings are revealed at such a rapid rate that it’s important that the site is fairly current and, even better, if it’s frequently updated.
  • If you’re prone to getting queasy, be prepared: Many of the brain images you’ll see are photographs of preserved human (and other animal) brains.

Top Sites for the Structure and Functions of the Brain

To learn about brain structures and brain functions …
To view images of the brain …
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Neuroscience and Brain Research

Although scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface, new technologies are helping to solve some of the mysteries of the brain at an ever-increasing rate. With most major scientific journals maintaining Web sites, the latest neuroscience and brain research is right at your fingertips.

Insights for Neuroscience and Brain Research

  • Most scientific journals present only article abstracts on their Web sites and require the purchase of an often quite expensive subscription for access to the entire text of an article. But bear in mind that there are alternatives. If you’re interested in one article on a specific topic, most journals offer temporary (usually one-day) access to an individual article for a small fee.
  • If you’re interested in staying up to date on the most recent research findings, most sites allow you to sign up for free e-newsletters that provide either abstracts or summaries of the latest journal articles.
  • Brain and neuroscience research is advancing at lightning speed, so if you’re searching a topic by subject or keyword, be sure to check the dates of the articles retrieved. Research findings from even just a few years back may already have been refuted or become obsolete.

Top Sites for Neuroscience and Brain Research

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Neuroscience and Brain Blogs

There are numerous neuroscience and brain blogs on the Web, many of which reference new breakthroughs in neuroscience, thus providing valuable information in a user-friendly way. Here are our favorites.

Insights for Neuroscience and Brain Blogs

  • Blogs are rarely sources of impartial information. The blogger often has an opinion on the topic that's covered in the blog, so be aware of bias.
  • Credibility can be another question. It’s worthwhile to always check out the author(s) of a blog to determine credibility and gain perspective. All research has some bias, and even among researchers, physicians and professors, there is a range of authority and perspectives that may affect their opinions on certain topics.

Top Sites for Neuroscience and Brain Blogs

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Teaching Neuroscience and the Brain for Kids

More and more teachers—from elementary to college level—are posting their curricula online, turning the Internet into a huge database of educational resources. Whether you need sample lesson plans, assignments or exams, or ideas for labs and projects, teaching neuroscience and the brain for kids is easy with help from the Web.

Insights for Teaching Neuroscience and the Brain for Kids

  • Don’t be too quick to dismiss activities that appear to be just for fun. Many suggestions—such as making edible neurons and playing synaptic tag—can teach students a lot about the brain and enable them to grasp complex concepts such as the role of neurotransmitters, enzymes and dendrites.
  • Be aware of your audience if you’ll be using brain images for a lecture or presentation. MRI scans might be very useful when shown at a professional conference, but of little interest to young school students. Use particular discretion when displaying images of cadaver brains, which may be considered unethical and offensive to some individuals.

Top Sites for Teaching Neuroscience and the Brain for Kids

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Improving Brain Fitness and Health

With life expectancy on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to preserve cognitive functioning so that we can remain active, vibrant and mentally sharp in our golden years. Experts now believe that well-directed mental exercise is a must for cognitive enhancement and healthy aging. Use the sites below to find information on improving brain fitness and brain health.

Insights for Improving Brain Fitness and Health

  • Most Web sites contain a glossary of relevant terms, but one word that is of particular significance with respect to brain fitness is “plasticity.” Brain plasticity (also known as neuroplasticity) refers to the brain’s ability to change with learning.
  • Many books have been written about brain plasticity. Two excellent choices are "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Dr. Norman Doidge and "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" by Sharon Begley.

Top Sites for Improving Brain Fitness and Health

To learn about brain plasticity…
For brain exercises …
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Buying Neuroscience Books and Brain Resources

There are neuroscience books about the brain for laymen, students, scientists and researchers; textbooks and journals; and human interest stories about disorders, behavior and unusual brain and mind phenomena. Use the sites below to get help buying neuroscience books and brain resources, including brain models and even brain-shaped gummy candy.

Insights for Buying Neuroscience Books and Brain Resources

  • You’ll find books filled with brain teasers, books containing first-hand accounts of people living with brain abnormalities, books written for the casual scientist and books targeting physicians or medical students with terminology so complex it will make your brain spin. Before you whip out your credit card, be sure to first determine the book’s target audience.
  • If you’re looking to avoid the boredom of dry, scientific information about the brain, try instead searching for books or DVDs that tell stories. You’ll find a great deal of valuable scientific information embedded in accounts of real medical case studies or personal accounts of brain-related phenomena.
  • Be sure to do some comparative shopping before purchasing items such as brain models. If your objective is to study neural networks, for example, you’ll need to spring for a fairly pricey model. But if you’ll be using the model just for demonstration, there are plenty of excellent replicas available for a fraction of the cost.

Top Sites for Buying Neuroscience Books and Brain Resources

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