Neuroscience book recommendations

Neuroscience book recommendations

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I'm looking for a textbook in neuroscience for a rigorous introduction to the topic as an autodidact. I have no prior exposure to the field.

In particular, I'm interested in the chemical mechanisms of enzyme modulation, ideally something similar to Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry where specific Protein Databank ID's are given, so I can load an enzyme in PyMOL and view where the inhibitors/activators bind, in conjunction with an explanation of the actual pathways involved from a molecular level.

I've read Wade: Organic Chemistry, and a good part of Clayden's Organic Chemistry, before self-studying biochemistry for 6 months, to give a little background of my knowledge.

I'm leaning towards Kandel's Principles of Neuroscience after reading some other suggestions here, but this seems like a gigantic text, and I'm unsure how detailed the biochemistry side of things is (which is my main interest)? Could anyone share some thoughts regarding that, or recommend an alternative smaller text with a specific focus on biochemistry?

I'm also concerned that a large amount of data and publications in the field of neuroscience fail replication (something as high as 60% I believe), so the book would need to contain only factual, widely accepted information and not cutting-edge speculative studies that haven't been replicated and widely accepted. Also, as little pharmaceutical-industry influenced as possible.

Ultimately, my interest lies in understanding how different medications and drugs cause different mental states, their exact pathways and mechanisms, and how they form tolerance. I'd like to one day conduct research in how to minimize said tolerance, eg: reverse receptor desensitization. Which book should I begin with to head towards this goal?


I don't have enough rep yet to comment on your question, but I have read the whole of Kandel's Principles of Neural Science in 2nd year of med school (last year) and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it!

I would recommend Part II: Cell and Molecular Biology of the Neuron to you, as this is where most detailed discussion about the molecolular structure of membrane proteins etc. is happening. And that's only about 110 pages. It probably doesn't go as far as what you are looking for, but I found it a very good introduction to the field of ion channels and how they work. The rest of the book is very interesting if you are keen to get a thorough overview of the whole field of neural science, but you won't find too much detail on the biochemical level there. Part III: Synaptic Transmission with about 150 pages is also a very good read.

For a specific focus on biochemistry you'll have to look for another book, but quite likely you'll find good candidates in the Selected Readings at the end of each chapter, here is one example of those lists from chapter 7:

Oliver Sacks’ Recommended Reading List of 46 Books: From Plants and Neuroscience, to Poetry and the Prose of Nabokov

We remember Oliver Sacks as a neurologist, but we remember him not least because he wrote quite a few books as well. If you read those books, you’ll get a sense of Sacks’ wide range of interests — invention, perception and misperception, hallucination, and more — few of which lack a connection to the human mind. His passion for ferns, the core subject of a travelogue he wrote in Oaxaca as well as an unexpectedly frequent object of reference in his other writings and talks, may seem an outlier. But for Sacks, ferns offered one more window into the kingdom of nature that produced humanity, and which throughout his life he tried to understand by observing from as many different angles as possible.

No small amount of evidence of that pursuit appears in Sacks’ list of 46 book recommendations commissioned for The Strand’s “Author’s Bookshelf” series. (See the full list below.) A fair few of its selections, including William James’ The Principles of Psychology, A.R. Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist, and Antonio Damasio’s The Feeling of What Happens, seem like natural favorites for a writer so endlessly fascinated by human cognition and consciousness.

Tracing the development of the human brain and mind would, of course, lead to an interest in biology and evolution, here resulting in such picks as Edward O. Wilson’s Naturalist, Carl Zimmer’s Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, and the journals Charles Darwin kept aboard the Beagle.

But Sacks wasn’t just an observer of the brain: some of his most interesting writings come out of the times he used himself as a kind of research subject — as when he found out what he could learn on amphetamines and LSD. A similar line of inquiry no doubt showed him the value of Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, and in less altered states the likes of Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams . But whichever paths took Sacks toward his knowledge, he ultimately had to get that knowledge down on paper himself, and the prose of Vladimir Nabokov, the poetry of W.H. Auden and the philosophy of David Hume surely did their part to inspire his incisive and evocative style. We would all, whatever our interests, like to write like Oliver Sacks: if these books shaped him as a writer and thinker, who are we to demur from, say, A Natural History of Ferns?

  • A Natural History of Ferns by Robbin C. Moran
  • A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud by Karl Sabbagh
  • A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume
  • A Visionary Madness: The Case of James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine by Mike Jay
  • Actual Minds, Possible Worlds by Jerome Bruner
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  • Cannery Row (Steinbeck Centennial Edition (1902-2002)) by John Steinbeck
  • Challenger & Company: the Complete Adventures of Professor Challenger and His Intrepid Team-The Lost World, The Poison Belt, The Land of Mists, The Disintegration Machine and When the World Screamed by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Collected Poems by W.H. Auden
  • Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond by Robert R. Provine
  • Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History’s Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough by Rebecca Stott
  • Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson
  • Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
  • Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer
  • Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing by Laura J. Snyder
  • God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet
  • Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein
  • Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival by Jay Neugeboren
  • In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel
  • Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World by Abraham Pais
  • Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics by Ruth Lewin Sime
  • Lost in America: A Journey with My Father by Sherwin B. Nuland
  • Music, Language, and the Brain by Aniruddh D. Patel
  • Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by V.S. Ramachandran
  • Plutonium: A History of the World’s Most Dangerous Element by Jeremy Bernstein
  • Same and Not the Same by Roald Hoffmann
  • Selected Poems by Thom Gunn
  • Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants by Katy Payne
  • Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
  • The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy by Bill Hayes
  • The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell b y Aldous Huxley
  • The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux
  • The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
  • The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World by Jenny Uglow
  • The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory by A. R. Luria
  • The Principles of Psychology (Volume Two) by William James
  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  • Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin
  • Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavio r by Jonathan Weiner
  • Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin’s Journals of Researches by Charles Darwin
  • What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz
  • What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery by Francis Crick
  • Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen Jay Gould

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Students from multiple disciplines will appreciate Neuroscience: 6th Edition (about $125), since it draws on examples from both animals and humans. It's designed to cover big picture and minute theories, giving a helpful overview that also prepares you for higher-level coursework.

  • Focuses on molecular processes
  • Written in an accessible manner
  • Clear and useful diagrams

Editor's Notes

November 03, 2020:

This field moves fast, which is something we kept top of mind during our most recent update, prioritizing texts that are only a few years old or else freshly revised. That includes Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain in an enhanced fourth edition and Behavioral Neuroscience, now in its ninth iteration.

We were pleased to see that Principles of Neural Science is getting an update for the first time in several years, something that this hefty tome was long overdue for. At close to 2,000 pages, this incredibly comprehensive option now has highly detailed information on stroke, Parkinson’s, and MS, a new chapter on spatial memory, new images, and streamlined chapters and contributors. One of the only books we kept around despite getting a little old was Netter's Atlas of Neuroscience, as it's more helpful than any brain model out there, is still widely useful, and very budget-friendly.

While Basic Clinical Neuroscience remains a helpful text for medical students, it's more than a few years old at this point and a little too simplistic for many student's needs. We thought we'd take the opportunity to bring on something more specialized with The Neuroscience of Addiction, which works to fill a void left by many other texts. While it only offers a basic foundation and familiarity with the subject, this is intended so that it can be helpful for policymakers, laypeople, and non-scientists who could use the information but don't want to get mired in heady material.

We also brought on Brain & Behavior to replace Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience. Brain & Behavior is extremely student-oriented and strives to be as engaging as possible, in which it succeeds for many. It makes the material relatable to everyday life and generously peppers in recent research, current events, case studies, and more.

December 11, 2019:

We wanted this list to showcase some of the most relied-upon, lauded volumes in the field, with selections written by scholars and experts that are capable of enlightening beginners and advanced students alike. We updated Cognitive Neuroscience to reflect its most recent edition, as well as introduced the 10th edition of Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience. This text is only available in loose-leaf format, however, so consider opting for the 9th edition if you'd prefer a hardcover copy.

For those who are studying behavioral psychology, books like Behavioral Neuroscience, The Neuroscience of Clinical Psychiatry and Cognitive Neuroscience should prove useful. Undergrads will appreciate Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain and Neuroscience: 6th Edition, both selections that are written in an easily digestible manner and shouldn't overwhelm. And while The Principles of Neural Science remains a top choice and is often referred to as the bible of neuroscience, we think it's likely too heady for students who are struggling to understand concepts, autodidacts, or those who are just beginning to study the discipline.

We added Basic Clinical Neuroscience for students in medical school. It covers anatomy and neurophysiology and makes helpful connections between basic physiology and pathophysiology. Remember that it is written for the clinical perspective, so it may not be helpful for those who need a basic overview.

Special Honors

Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal Not exactly a textbook, Beautiful Brain straddles the line between art and science and is an inspiring and enlightening text for budding and professional neuroscientists alike. It showcases the work of famed neuroscientist and artist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, presenting a selection of his drawings of brain cells, brain regions, and neural circuits with descriptive commentary. The sketches are explored from the perspectives of leading figures in contemporary neuroscience.

LoveNeuro Designed by a student for fellow learners, LoveNeuro provides a gentle introduction to neuroscience. It allows you to learn, revise, watch, and draw the human nervous system in an exciting and easy-to-understand way. It features a variety of useful resources to help you learn and remember complex material, with notes, diagrams, quizzes, video tutorials, interactive exercises, and more.

The Society for Neuroscience Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Society for Neuroscience has over 36,000 members in 95 countries. They offer year-round programming that includes two highly regarded scientific journals, professional development resources and career training, science advocacy and public outreach, and more. Members benefit from the exchange of scientific research, in-person and online programming, and a global community of like minds.

1. General Books About the Brain

Where can you get one book to bring to Neuroscience 101? Of the three books below, Brain, Mind, and Behavior is most accessible to the lay reader. Images of Mind comes next. Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior is a textbook, which makes it a questionable choice for lay readers. It received multiple nominations, however, and then the fourth highest total score in the survey, more than any other general book on the brain. Brain, Mind, and Behavior, a truly general account of neuroscience for lay readers, is now almost 15 years old, but a new edition will be published in 2000.

Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior
Edited by Eric R. Kandel, James H. Schwartz, and Thomas M. Jessell. Appleton & Lange, 1995. $59.95. 743 pp.

This is a textbook for undergraduates with some biology experience and may be difficult for lay readers. Three primary authors, all at Columbia University, are joined by a dozen more to present the subject—from neuron to memory—with many illustrations, all technical, and appropriate mathematical formulas and models of compounds. Scientists in the Cerebrum survey, however, voted overwhelmingly for this book as a general introduction to neuroscience. At 743 pages, it is our list’s most comprehensive introduction to brain science.

“What does the phrase ‘everything the brain does’ mean? It certainly means moving, sensing, eating, drinking, breathing, talking, and sleeping. But does it include mental acts—thoughts and dreams, musings and insights, hopes and aspirations? This book takes the view that ‘the mind’ results when many key cells of the brain work together, just as ‘digestion’ results when the cells of the intestinal tract work together. You may disagree with this view, but that should not stop you from being curious.”

Brain, Mind, and Behavior
By Floyd E. Bloom and Arlyne Lazerson. W. H. Freeman & Company, 1988 pb (1985). $19.95. 394 pp.

Is there one book that “says it all” for the newcomer to neuroscience? If it isn’t this one by Bloom (chairman of neuropharmacology at Scripps Research Institute and editor of Science) and Lazerson (a science writer), it just may not be possible. Written to accompany a PBS-TV series, Brain, Mind, and Behavior systematically moves from monamine transmitters to thinking and consciousness, with color illustrations all the way. The book is eminently readable by a smart high-school senior, but it addresses as well subtle controversies and questions in research. A 14-page glossary ices the cake. However, you’ll need a way to cover the almost 15 years of advances since this pioneering book was published, unless you want to await the new edition.

Images of Mind
By Michael I. Posner and Marcus E. Raichle. Scientific American Library, 1997 pb (1994). $19.95. 257 pp.

No recent development has transformed neuroscience more than imaging technology. What brain research area has been untouched by its power? As a result, this volume—by a foremost cognitive psychologist (Posner) and a pioneer of positron emission tomography (Raichle)—is not just a book on imaging it is also a general brain book. Chapters deal with mental images, interpreting words, mental operations, attention, brain development, and mental disorders. Visuals, including brain scans, are generous, but so is the lucid text. Images of Mind is more than a survey it reports research by the authors at major PET centers.

For the Caregiver

It is no secret that today’s medical atmosphere scarsely resembles anything similar to that of 50 years ago. Many have argued that this is in large part due to a lack of compassion in the modern medical system. If this is the case, where have we gone wrong, and is there scientific evidence to support that compassion is even beneficial to healthcare, personal relationships, and professional lives? These questions are raised and explored by authors Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli through the telling of true stories of medical providers and patients that help demonstrate the incredible effect of the human connection. Coupled perfectly with these gripping stories are easily readable summaries of decades of research studying the effects of compassion as well as its implications in our lives. Addressing topics from healthcare cost to provider burnout, from caring for others to caring for ourselves, this evidence-based analysis of the importance of compassion is a must-read for anyone interested in the social science and psychology of the care we give in all settings of our lives.

Kelly McGonigal

Through her trademark blend of science and storytelling, McGonigal draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, as well as memoirs, ethnographies, and philosophers. She shows how movement is intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection, and mastery--and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

McGonigal tells the stories of people who have found fulfillment and belonging through running, walking, dancing, swimming, weightlifting, and more, with examples that span the globe, from Tanzania, where one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes on the planet live, to a dance class at Juilliard for people with Parkinson's disease, to the streets of London, where volunteers combine fitness and community service, to races in the remote wilderness, where athletes push the limits of what a human can endure. Along the way, McGonigal paints a portrait of human nature that highlights our capacity for hope, cooperation, and self-transcendence.

The result is a revolutionary narrative that goes beyond familiar arguments in favor of exercise, to illustrate why movement is integral to both our happiness and our humanity. Readers will learn what they can do in their own lives and communities to harness the power of movement to create happiness, meaning, and connection.

The Science of Compassion

With The Science of Compassion, acclaimed researcher and teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD, presents a practical workshop to help you understand what makes compassion work—and how you can cultivate it in your life.

In this seven-hour training intensive, she provides invaluable tools and guidance for overcoming emotional fatigue, empathic distress, fear, anger, self-judgment, and other barriers to self-compassion, social connection, and courageous action.

This audio course is filled with cutting-edge science, inspirational stories, and research-based practices to help you build your capacity for generosity, empathy, and kindness—and become a compassionate force in the world.

Listen to two brief excerpts below.

This program is available as an automatic download from Sounds True or Audible. It is also available as a 6-CD set through Sounds True, Amazon, and other booksellers.

CE credits are available to psychologists, social workers, nurses, teachers, and other professionals through Sounds True.

CILSE’s Neuroscience Book Recommendations


Teachers frequently ask the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education (CILSE) for book recommendations. We’re always happy to oblige. After all, we’re a center dedicated to training educators in the neuroscience of learning! In the past we’ve shared Dr. Martha Deckla’s book recommendations, which include terrific reads like Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College, and Executive Function in Education: From Theory to Practice. We thought we’d add to this great list by rounding up a few of our other favorites. Current and former CILSE fellows, as well as faculty and staff, have provided a brief synopsis of each book and what we like about it. We hope you enjoy these brainy reads just as much as we do!

Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A Comprehensive Guide to the New Brain-Based Learning By Tracy Tokuhama-Espinosa

Recommended by Dr. Alison Pritchard, Program Director of the Neuropsychology Research Lab at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons By Sam Kean

Recommended by CILSE Education Consultant and former Fellow, Lisa Carey.

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain By Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek.

Recommended by Alicia Woolf, Clinical Faculty of Special Education at Urban Teachers and former CILSE Fellow.

Executive Function and Dysfunction: Identification, Assessment, and Treatment By Scott Hunter and Elizabeth Sparrow (Eds.)

Recommended by Dr. Lisa Jacobson, Director of the Oncology Clinic in the Department of Neuropsychology at Kennedy Krieger Institute and CILSE Core Director of Neuroscience of Learning and the Learner.

Neuromania: On the Limits of Brain Science By Paolo Legrenzi and Carlo Umilta

Recommended by CILSE Education Consultant and former Fellow, Lisa Carey.

We hope you enjoy these great books as much as we do. Our summer reading lists are already stacked with new neuroscience books. We will continue to share book recommendations as our list of brainy reads grows. Remember, books are not peer reviewed, so the information offered isn’t always top quality. Be cautious and critical when purchasing books about the brain and learning. Have a question about a brainy book? Contact us! We’d love to check out new books with you and recommend great titles. Happy reading!


Human learning is studied in a variety of ways. Motor learning is often studied separately from verbal learning. Studies may delve into anatomy vs function, may view behavioral outcomes or look discretely at the molecular and cellular level of learning. All have merit but they are dispersed across a wide literature and rarely are the findings integrated and synthesized in a meaningful way. Human Learning: Biology, Brain, and Neuroscience synthesizes findings across these levels and types of learning and memory investigation.

Divided into three sections, each section includes a discussion by the editors integrating themes and ideas that emerge across the chapters within each section. Section 1 discusses general topics in human learning and cognition research, including inhibition, short term and long term memory, verbal memory, memory disruption, and scheduling and learning. Section 2 discusses cognitive neuroscience aspects of human learning. Coverage here includes models, skill acquisition, declarative and non declarative memory, age effects on memory, and memory for emotional events. Section 3 focuses on human motor learning.

This book is suitable for cognitive neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, kinesthesiologists, and graduate courses in learning.

Major: Neuroscience vs Biology?

So I’ve been in between majoring in Biology and minoring in neuro vs just Majoring in neruo for some time. I’m fascinated with neuroscience and do research in neurodegeneration, but don’t know if I want to fully major in Neuroscience. At the same time the pre-med/health neuroscience track at UTD sounds really good. What are y’all’s perspectives?

Neuro is super fun and has a lot of medical oriented courses taught by MDs and MD/PhDs.

Ye that’s part of why I’m seriously considering switching to neuro. After talking to my CV advisor about my interest and goals she thought it wouldn’t be bad to switch either.

I'm a biology major and will say unless you love biology it can be pretty dry, I plan on getting a master or PhD in the subject so that's why I'm happy with my choice but if you prefer neuro overall Iɽ suggest it since you'll get tired of the constant biology courses

Take intro to neuro you first or second semester and see how much you like the content and go from their. Also if you stick with bio intro to neuro just counts as upper level elective so it still benefits you and the core classes you take in you first semester is pretty much tge same, unless yiu came with a ton of credit from high school (like 30+ credit hours).

Neuroscience book recommendations - Biology

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Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

The Feature Paper can be either an original research article, a substantial novel research study that often involves several techniques or approaches, or a comprehensive review paper with concise and precise updates on the latest progress in the field that systematically reviews the most exciting advances in scientific literature. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.