Nerve Cells and the Natural Behavior of Animals
by Jeffrey M. Camhi
Publisher: Sinauer Associates Inc
This book introduces basic concepts in neuroethyoloy (and in brain science), like the auditory system, visual system, time/space perception in an orderly and concise manner. Each subject is explained by investigating the relevant research on a certain animal (lots of bugs & bats!). The only setback to the book is its age: some research has lost relevance. And, yes, Prof. Camhi certainly brings the subject to life by means of a great deal of enthusiasm. Also, here's an author who's actually a very nice person in real life....:-)
Neuroethology is the biological approach to the study of the neural basis of behavior. Thus, the focus is on the role of the nervous system in behavior, but the perspective is that which is called 'ethological'. The ethological approach emphasizes the causation, the development, the evolution, and the function of behavior and neuroethologists seek to understand this in terms of neural circuits. Neuroethology is the study of natural behavior, which, in the older scientific literature, was called "instinctive behavior" or "innate behavior". Neuroethologists base their studies on behavioral studies that often are done in the field on the animal's own turf.
The neural approaches used in neuroethology are as diverse as the field of neuroscience itself. Thus, some neuroethologists use behavioral methods only to ask profound questions about the organization of underlying neural circuits. Some use intracellular recording techniques to probe one cell at a time in some neural circuit that is involved in a particular behavior. Some use neuroanatomical techniques, some use comparative methods to look at how nervous systems differ from one species to another. Molecular methods are used to explore phylogenetic relationships. All sorts of molecular and cellular methods are used to explore neural connections and to uncover diversity and specialization of nerve cells. Computer modeling is used to predict behavior of neural circuits.
The subjects in neuroethology are as diverse as the animal kingdom. Neuroethologists are interested in comparative aspects of behavior and in the evolution of the nervous system. The comparative method is used in many studies. A typical assemblage of neuroethologists is likely to talk about jellyfish and corals, sea squirts and sea slugs, insects and insectivores, slugs and bugs, birds and bats, frogs or toads, and even mammals. Some may be interested in behavioral processes, not a particular group, others in neural computation and algorithms, not any particular system. Somehow the field holds together by the mutual attraction of neuroethologists to like-minded concern for diversity of animal nervous systems and their role in behavior.