Brain Arousal and Information Theory

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Harvard University Press, 2006 - Medical - 205 pages
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Arousal is fundamental to all cognition. It is intuitively obvious, absolutely necessary, but what exactly is it? In Brain Arousal and Information Theory, Donald Pfaff presents a daring perspective on this long-standing puzzle. Pfaff argues that, beneath our mental functions and emotional dispositions, a primitive neuronal system governs arousal. Employing the simple but powerful framework of information theory, Pfaff revolutionizes our understanding of arousal systems in the brain.

Starting with a review of the neuroanatomical, neurophysiological, and neurochemical components of arousal, Pfaff asks us to look at the gene networks and neural pathways underlying the brain's arousal systems much as a design engineer would contemplate information systems. This allows Pfaff to postulate that there is a bilaterally symmetric, bipolar system universal among mammals that readies the animal or the human being to respond to stimuli, initiate voluntary locomotion, and react to emotional challenges. Applying his hypothesis to heightened states of arousal-sex and fear-Pfaff shows us how his theory opens new scientific approaches to understanding the structure of brain arousal.

A major synthesis of disparate data by a preeminent neuroscientist, Brain Arousal and Information Theory challenges current thinking about cognition and behavior. Whether you subscribe to Pfaff's theory or not, this book will stimulate debate about the nature of arousal itself.

 

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Contents

Toward a Universal Theory of Brain Arousal
1
What Is to Be Explained? Ethology and the Mechanisms of Arousal
2
Operational Definition of Arousal
4
A Quantitative Approach to Physical Measurement of Generalized Arousal
6
The Neurobiology of Arousal Constitutes an Interesting Application of Information Theory
13
Claims for This Chapter and Introduction to Chapters Following
24
Anatomy Is Not Destiny but a Little Neuroanatomy Helps
26
Primitive Master Cells in the Brainstem Provide a Neuroanatomic Core that Theoretically Matches the Behavioral Data
42
Summary
98
Heightened States of Arousal Sex Compared to Fear
99
Sex Behaviors CNS Mechanisms Require Arousal
100
Generalized Arousal Affects Specific Arousals and Vice Versa
107
Contrasting Sex and Fear
115
Applicability of Information Theory
119
Libido and Stress in Humans
120
Summary
124

LongDistance Lines Tuning Local Modules
48
Summary and Hypothetical Implications for Human Behavior
51
Arousal Is Signaled by Electrical Discharges in a System of Nerve Cells
55
Traveling Up the Brainstem
56
Olfaction and Vision
65
Informational Content Governs Amplitude of Response in Neurons Related to Arousal
66
Cerebral Cortex the EEG
68
Autonomic Nervous System Changes Supporting Arousal the Unity of the Body
71
Patterns of Autonomic Responses
72
Reformulations
77
A High Information System Shows Coordination sans Correlation
78
Supporting HormoneDependent Behaviors
81
Summary
82
Genes Whose Neurochemical Products Support Arousal
83
Genes Newly Recognized
90
Concepts and Questions
95
Major Systems Questions about Brain Arousal Networks
125
What Are Universal Operating Features of Arousal Systems?
126
How Do We Meet the Requirement for Rapid Changes of CNS State?
129
Sensitivity and Alacrity of Response Yet Stability? How?
131
Does Automata Theory Apply?
132
Questions in the Time Domain
136
Questions about Spatial Properties
137
Thermodynamics Information Theory and Questions for the CNS
138
How Does a Sine Wave Impact a Sawtooth?
140
Unity from Diversity?
141
Summary and Practical Importance From Biological Mechanisms to Health Applications
143
Applications to Human Conditions
147
Works Cited
155
Acknowledgments
197
Index
199
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About the author (2006)

Donald Pfaff is Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at The Rockefeller University in New York City.

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