Systems neuroscience

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Systems neuroscience is a subdiscipline of neuroscience and systems biology that studies the function of neural circuits and systems. It is an umbrella term, encompassing a number of areas of study concerned with how nerve cells behave when connected together to form neural networks. At this level of analysis, neuroscientists study how different neural circuits analyze sensory information, form perceptions of the external world, make decisions, and execute movements. Researchers in systems neuroscience are concerned with the relation between molecular and cellular approaches to understanding brain structure and function, as well as with the study of high-level mental functions such as language, memory, and self-awareness (which are the purview of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience). Systems neuroscientists typically employ techniques for understanding networks of neurons while they function in vivo (e.g. electrophysiology (single or multi-electrode recording), in vivo imaging, fMRI, PET). The term is commonly used in an educational framework: a common sequence of graduate school neuroscience courses consists of cellular/molecular neuroscience for the first semester, then systems neuroscience for the second semester. It is also sometimes used to distinguish a subdivision within a neuroscience department at an academic institution.

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  • Bear, M. F. et al. Eds. (1995). Neuroscience: Exploring The Brain. Baltimore, Maryland, Williams and Wilkins. ISBN 0-7817-3944-6
  • Hemmen J. L., Sejnowski T. J. (2006). 23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514822-3