Neuroscience: overview, history, major branches

Neuroscience, in simple words, is the study of what the human nervous system is built of and how it functions. Neuroscientists main focal point is the brain, which acts as the central processing unit of a human’s nervous system. They observe what effect the brain has on cognitive behaviour and functions as well as studying how the nervous system reacts to people who may have neurological, psychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Neuroscience has always been classified as a subdivision of biology as opposed to being a study in its own realm but, neuroscience is actually an interdisciplinary study of science that stretches to other studies, such as: mathematics, linguistics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, philosophy, psychology or medicine.

Neuroscientists study the cellular, functional, evolutionary, computational, molecular, cellular and medical aspects of the nervous system.

A little bit of history

Ancient Egyptians believed that the core of one’s intelligence lay closest to the heart and because of this when Egyptians completed their mummification rituals they eliminated the brain and left the heart of the deceased to remain in the body. The first time, documented information was found on the brain, dates back to the year 1700 BC. It was found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus ( an ancient Egyptian medical text, named after the dealer who bought it) which mentioned the word ‘brain’ eight times, outlining  symptoms, diagnosis and probable outcomes of two people who had suffered head injuries. 

Since the 1950s, the scientific study of a person's nervous system has developed tremendously, mainly due to the development in other related fields such as: computational neuroscience, electrophysiology and molecular biology. In this time lapse, neuroscientists were able to discover the structure, functions, development, abnormalities and ways in which the nervous system could be altered. 

Unlike neurobiology, neuroscience refers to everything related to the nervous system


 

Branches of neuroscience

-Affective Neuroscience: This type of neuroscience looks at how neurons behave in relation to emotions. 

-Behavioral Neuroscience: This is the study of how the brain affects behaviour.

-Cellular Neuroscience: The study of neurons, including their form and physiological properties, at a cellular level.

-Clinical Neuroscience: Examines the disorders within the nervous system (for example, psychiatry  analyzes brain disorders).

-Cognitive Neuroscience: This looks at how the brain forms and controls thoughts and studies higher cognitive functions that exists in humans and their underlying neuronal base. 

-Computational Neuroscience: Scientists use computers to simulate and model brain functions, and applying techniques from mathematics, physics, and other computational fields to study brain function.

-Cultural Neuroscience: This field looks at the interaction between cultural factors and are genomic, neural, and psychological processes. It examines how cultural beliefs, practices and values shape the brain.

-Developmental Neuroscience: Analyzes what underlying mechanisms exist in neurological  development and how the nervous system develops and evolves. 

-Molecular Neuroscience: Scientists look at the role of individual molecules, genes, and proteins in the functioning of nerves and the nervous system at a molecular and cellular level.

-Neuroengineering: Utilizes engineering techniques to understand, replace, repair and improve neural systems. 

-Neuroimaging: This is a branch of medical imaging that concentrates on the brain. Neuroimaging is used to diagnose disease and assess the health of the brain. It can also be useful in the study of the brain, how it works, and how different activities affect the brain.

-Neuroinformatics: Integrates data in all areas of neuroscience, to help understand the brain and treat diseases. This field involves collaboration between computer scientists and neuroscientists. Experts develop effective ways to collect, analyze, share, and publish data.

-Neurolinguistics: Specialists investigate how the brain enables us to acquire, store, understand, and express language.

-Neurophysiology: Analyzes the functions of the brain and the relationship between the brain and parts of the body and how they connect. 

-Paleoneurology: Is the study of fossilized brains.

-Social Neuroscience: An interdisciplinary field dedicated to understanding how biological systems implement processes and social behaviour. 

-Systemic Neuroscience: Follows the data flow pathways within the CNS (central nervous system) and tries to define the types of processing that are carried out there.  

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