Portraits of the Mind / Carl Schoonover

Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Abrams, November 2010) follows the fascinating exploration of the brain through images. These beautiful black-and-white and vibrantly colored images, many resembling abstract art, are employed daily by scientists around the world, but most have never before been seen by the general public. From medieval sketches and 19th-century drawings by the founder of modern neuroscience to images produced using state-of-the-art techniques, readers are invited to witness the fantastic networks in the brain.

Each chapter in Portraits of the Mind addresses a different set of techniques for studying the brain, and each is introduced with an essay by a leading scientist in that field of study. Extended captions provide detailed explanations of each image as well as the major insights gained by scientists over the course of the past twenty years. The result is a peek at the mind's innermost workings, helping readers to understand, and offering clues about what may lie ahead.

"Portraits of the Mind achieves a rare combination of beauty and knowledge."
CARL ZIMMER, author of Soul Made Flesh and The Mind's Eye Goes Blind

"John Keats's insistence that truth is beauty is exemplified by Carl Schoonover's wonderful book, Portraits of the Mind. Since one cannot understand the present without examining the past, this book offers a delightful and instructive way of accomplishing just that."
ERIC R. KANDEL, MD, Nobel laureate and author of In Search of Memory

"Portraits of the Mind is a remarkable book that combines beautifully reproduced illustrations of the nervous system as it has been visualized over the centuries, as well as lively and authoritative commentaries by some of today's leading neuroscientists. It will be enjoyed by professionals and general readers alike."
DALE PURVES, MD, author of Why We See What We Do, Brains: How They Seem to Work, and Principles of Neural Development

About the Essay Contributors

Jonah Lehrer (foreword) graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He is a contributing editor at Wired, Scientific American Mind, and National Public Radio's Radio Lab. He has written for the New Yorker, Nature, Seed, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.

Dr. Nicholas Wade is a professor emeritus of psychology at University of Dundee and the author of A Natural History of Vision.

Dr. Javier DeFelipe is a professor of neurobiology at the Cajal Institute and the author of Butterflies of the Soul.

Dr. Joshua R. Sanes is a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University.

Dr. Maryann Martone and Dr. Mark Ellisman are the codirector and director of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Michael Goldberg is the David Mahoney Professor of Brain and Behavior at Columbia University, and the current president of the Society for Neuroscience.

Dr. Terrence Sejnowski is the director of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the author of The Computational Brain and Liars, Lovers and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are.

Dr. Joy Hirsch is a professor of functional neuroradiology and the director of the Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences at Columbia University.
I am a postdoctoral research scientist in the Axel Laboratory at Columbia University where I study the neural mechanisms that underlie olfactory learning. My doctoral work in the Bruno Laboratory at Columbia University focused on microanatomy and electrophysiology of rodent somatosensory cortex. I am the author of Portraits of the Mind (2010), have written for The New York Times, Le Figaro, and Scientific American, and in 2008 co-founded NeuWrite, a collaborative working group for scientists, writers, and those in between. I host a radio program on WKCR 89.9FM, which focuses on opera, postwar classical music, and occasionally their relationship to the brain.

(c) Elaine Zhang


Press inquiries and image requests: gfisher@abramsbooks.com


Diagram of the visual system. Ibn al-Haytham (circa 1027, published in 1083). The oldest known drawing of the nervous system shows a large nose at the bottom, eyes on either side, and a hollow optic nerve that flows out of each one towards the back of the brain.

October 16, 2010+br503+br559+br1

Phrenological skull. Anonymous (19th century). Photograph by Eszter Blahak/Semmelweis Museum. The pseudo-scientific theory of phrenology held that the bumps on our skull reflect the underlying shape of our brain--which in turn is divided into 'organs' that govern specific aspects of personality and cognitive ability.

October 16, 2010+br493+br615+br2

Olfactory bulb. Camillo Golgi (1875). Courtesy of Dr. Paolo Mazzarello. Drawing of a dog's olfactory bulb--the first area in the brain that processes smells--by physician and scientist Camillo Golgi. The features that appear here were revealed by a revolutionary method for staining samples of nervous tissue that now bears his name.

October 16, 2010+br346+br678+br3

Purkinje neuron. Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1899). Courtesy of Dr. Juan A. de Carlos. In a series of experiments that founded the modern field of neuroscience, Cajal mastered the intricacies of Golgi's staining technique and established the basic anatomy of the neuron and its part in the nervous system. This drawing shoes the basic components of a Purkinje neuron: a dense arborization of 'dendrites' that flows into the oval 'soma', which in turn sends out a thin 'axon'.

October 18, 2010+br428+br623+br4

Retina. Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1901). Courtesy of Dr. Juan A. de Carlos. Drawing by Cajal summarizing his findings concerning the neuronal circuitry of the eye's retina. The small arrows symbolize the flow of information from the photoreceptor cells that detect light, to intermediary layers of neurons that locally process visual information before it is sent to higher areas in the brain.

October 16, 2010+br850+br565+br5

Hippocampus. Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman (2004). Photomicrograph of different types of cellular structures in the rat hippocampus, a brain area implicated in learning and memory. This sample was prepared by performing an antibody staining, which exploits the extraordinary ability of natural antibodies to recognize specific molecules.

October 16, 2010+br850+br533+br6

Neuron scaffolding. Michael Hendricks and Suresh Jesuthasan (2008). Photomicrograph of the proteins inside of axons that, together, form the elaborate molecular scaffolding that enables a neuron to achieve its elongated form and stretch across the brain's expanse. This sample was prepared by performing an antibody staining, which exploits the extraordinary ability of natural antibodies to recognize specific molecules.

October 16, 2010+br470+br468+br7

Brainbow axons. Ryan Draft, Jeff Lichtman and Joshua Sanes (2007). Image taken from a transgenic 'Brainbow' mouse that enables neuroscientists to distinguish between neighboring, densely packed neurons by illuminating them in different colors. This photomicrograph reveals the disposition of axons that regulate the contraction of certain muscles.

October 16, 2010+br557+br701+br8

Brainbow cerebellum. Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman and Joshua Sanes (2007). Because neurons in the brain are small, convoluted, and densely packed it is exceedingly difficult to build precise neural connectivity diagrams, simply because it is often difficult to tell who is who. By bestowing individual spectral identities upon neighboring neurons, the 'Brainbow' technique offers the tantalizing promise of uncovering both fine, and large-scale properties of neural architectures. This photomicrograph shows presynaptic terminals in the cerebellum, called rosettes because of their flowerlike appearance.

October 16, 2010+br470+br470+br9

Retina. Andy Fischer (2008). This image of a chick's retina reveals the three basic stages of visual processing by the circuit in the eye that detects light and transforms it into signals the brain can understand. At the top of the image are the retina's photoreceptor cells (in gray)--the familiar rods and cones--that capture photons of light and translate them into electrical currents.

October 16, 2010+br471+br470+br10

Cortical blood vessels. Alfonso Rodríguez-Baeza and Marisa Ortega-Sánchez (2009). Photomicrograph of the microscopic blood vessels that shuttle oxygen and nutrients to neurons in the brain, obtained with a scanning electron microscope. This sample, from Human cerebral cortex, shows a large blood vessel at the surface of the brain (top), which sends down thin, densely branched capillaries to deliver blood throughout the entire cortex.

October 16, 2010+br409+br473+br11

MRI brain scan. Raqeeb Haque (2009). MRI of a patient who was found to have a tumor in the thalamus, as well as an excess accumulation of fluid inside the brain. Using the anatomical data shown here, surgeons were able to surgically remove the tumor and drain the fluid.

October 16, 2010+br850+br550+br12

All images subject to copyright. Contact gfisher@abramsbooks.com for requests.