Lessons from the Lobster: Eve Marder's Work in Neuroscience
Charlotte Nassim is an independent scholar and writer based in London.
How forty years of research on thirty neurons in the stomach of a lobster has yielded valuable insights for the study of the human brain.
Neuroscientist Eve Marder has spent forty years studying thirty neurons on the stomach of a lobster. Her focus on this tiny network of cells has yielded valuable insights into the much more complex workings of the human brain; she has become a leading voice in neuroscience. In Lessons from the Lobster, Charlotte Nassim describes Marder's work and its significance accessibly and engagingly, tracing the evolution of a supremely gifted scientist's ideas.
From the lobster's digestion to human thought is very big leap indeed. Our brains selectively recruit networks from about ninety billion available neurons; the connections are extremely complex. Nevertheless, as Nassim explains, Marder's study of a microscopic knot of stomatogastric neurons in lobsters and crabs, a small network with a countable number of neurons, has laid vital foundations for current brain research projects.
Marder's approach is as intuitive as it is analytic, but always firmly anchored to data. Every scrap of information is a pointer for Marder; her discoveries depend on her own creative thinking as much as her laboratory's findings. Nassim describes Marder's important findings on neuromodulation, the secrets of neuronal networks, and homeostasis. Her recognition of the importance of animal-to-animal variability has influenced research methods everywhere.
Marder has run her laboratory at Brandeis University since 1978. She was President of the Society for Neuroscience in 2008 and she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Kavli Award in Neuroscience and the 2013 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience. Research that reaches the headlines often depends on technical fireworks, and especially on spectacular images. Marder's work seldom fits that pattern, but this book demonstrates that a brilliant scientist working carefully and thoughtfully can produce groundbreaking results.
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