Communication between the brain and the rest of the body’s tissues, and the impact on our behaviour has always been a vast and intensely complex area of research. Consequently, researchers usually focus on a particular aspect of neuroscience, such as a single region of the brain, its impact on specific bodily functions, or how it controls certain types of behaviours. An ambitious new book from three world-leading scientists brings together three very different perspectives to address the fundamental relationship between the body, brain and behaviour. In doing so, they shed new light on the inner workings of the nervous system in a way no major publication has attempted to do in the field of neuroscience.
“Body, Brain, Behavior: Three Views and a Conversation” is positioned at the frontier of neuroscience. It is written by DPAG’s Professor Zoltán Molnár, a developmental neuroscientist, and two Yale School of Medicine Professors, Dr Tamas Horvath, an endocrine physiologist, and Dr Joy Hirsch, a social neuroscientist. The book has a particular emphasis on the relationship between the brain and its development and evolution, peripheral organs, and other brains in communication. This unusual multi-faceted focus expands current views of neuroscience by illustrating the integration of these disciplines through a novel method of conversations between the three authors.
The book is a culmination of two years of weekly recorded interdisciplinary conversations held online during the COVID-19 pandemic as each researcher penned a representative chapter of their sub-discipline. Professor Molnár said: “Our fields of investigation are so diverse we might not normally meet, let alone have a conversation, and yet, that is what the book is about. We did not know how it would turn out until the very end. This book is a kind of experiment that explores the use of conversation as a conduit for scientific thought and development.”
In a radical departure from conventional single topic publications, the book is to be published by Elsevier as three chapters alongside nineteen recorded conversations. Chapter 1 by Professor Molnár is preoccupied with how the brain is made. As outlined in his introduction, Professor Molnár’s perspective sees “the brain as the product of a developmental process that evolved over millennia and produced a structure that can generate highly complex functions.” Chapter 2 by Dr Horvath tackles the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body from the “global point of view that the entire body is a brain and the contents of, for example, the cerebral cortex are a component of the mind, brain, and body system.” Chapter 3 by Dr Hirsch takes the perspective that a brain is only one half of the fundamental social unit: “A minimum social unit includes two brains engaged in a social interaction where both are mutually influenced by the other in an active and reciprocal manner.”
The recorded conversations take the form of open-ended discussions where a diverse range of topics at the interphase of these three perspectives are freely associated. These unique recordings, taken alongside the three chapters, ultimately demonstrate that neuroscience is not a linearly evolved discipline. Professor Molnár said: “The "unplugged" conversations build original bridges that connect ‘orphan topics’ hidden in each of our disciplines. We learned a great deal from each other, and the book presents a fresh view of the underappreciated mechanisms of interdisciplinary science. We had not thought of conversations and dialogue between scientists as a mechanism for creative thinking prior to this experience. However, the book illustrates the intimate intertwining of scientific thought and the scientists who do the thinking. At the end of the day the book presents unconventional connections between the outer boundaries of neuroscience and some novel insights that are unleashed by untethered dialogue. These dialogues also relate the topics to real-world issues including health, disease, world events, and every-day experiences.”
Ahead of its release on Tuesday 1 February 2022, the book has received enormous praise from the international scientific community. Dr Jeffrey Friedman ForMemRS, who delivered DPAG’s inaugural Sir Hans Krebs Prize Lecture in 2019, said: “This is a highly engaging book on neuroscience by three eminent scientists, each with a distinct take on brain function. The book brings the reader into a spontaneous set of conversations that are brimming with ideas. The discourse takes the form of an adventure where the reader doesn’t know precisely where the discussion will lead. Much is learned along the way.”
Head of Department Professor David Paterson said: "I agree with the authors' assessment of the field of Neuroscience. DPAG has the model they are embracing where brain meets integrative physiology. As the cover diagram shows, organs are not islands to themselves. They need the autonomic nervous system and endocrinology."
The book is available for pre-order on the Elsevier website - visit this link for more information, including the key features, preview of chapter 1, and a table of contents.
The book is also available to pre-order on Amazon.
Update: DPAG hosted the Oxford Launch of "Body Brain Behavior - The Need For Conversations" Thursday 7 April 2022.