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Modeling Neural Development

Edited by Arjen van Ooyen
The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003
ISBN 0-262-22066-0
xvi + 336 pages, 96 illustrations

Cover of Modeling Neural Development This is one of the first books to study neural development using computational and mathematical modeling. Modeling provides precise and exact ways of expression, which allow us to go beyond the insights that intuitive or commonsense reasoning alone can yield. Most neural modeling focuses on information processing in the adult nervous system; Modeling Neural Development shows how models can be used to study the development of the nervous system at different levels of organization and at different phases of development, from molecule to system and from neurulation to cognition.

The book's fourteen chapters follow loosely the chronology of neural development. Chapters 1 and 2 study the very early development of the nervous system, discussing gene networks, cell differentiation, and neural tube development. Chapters 3-5 examine neuronal morphogenesis and neurite outgrowth. Chapters 6-8 study different aspects of the self-organization of neurons into networks. Chapters 9-12 cover refinement of connectivity and the development of specific connectivity patterns. Chapters 13 and 14 focus on some of the functional implications of morphology and development.

Each chapter contains an overview of the biology of the topic in question, a review of the modeling efforts in the field, a discussion in more detail of some of the models, and some perspectives on future theoretical and experimental work.

The science of studying neural development by computational and mathematical modeling is relatively new; this book, as Dale Purves writes in the foreword, "serves as an important progress report" in the effort to understand the complexities of neural development.

Book endorsements

"The more we learn about the brain, the more we are coming to realize that understanding its development will be a key to unlocking its functions, especially its ability to adapt to new environments. The wide range of levels of development that can be studied, from the molecular to the cognitive, are described in this book by some of the leading researchers in this growing field of computational neural development."
--Terrence J. Sejnowski, Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and University of California, San Diego

"Brain development and function are inseparable facets of a whole, whose understanding requires both theoretical and modeling approaches. This insightful and approachable book provides the most comprehensive view to date of the modeling of neuronal development, from the molecular level to system and cognitive levels."
--Idan Segev, David & Inez Myers Chair and Head, Interdisciplinary Center for Computational Neuroscience, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

"Developmental neuroscience is turning a corner, and this book is helping to usher in a new, quantitative era. With chapters that approach the subject from diverse viewpoints, this book is essential reading for practitioners in the field."
--Rafael Yuste, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University

Book reviews

"The editor has done an admirable job of putting together a book that is more than just a collection of chapters. The book accomplishes a remarkable level of synthesis of up-to-date empirical and computational work spanning all relevant levels in development, from genetic regulatory networks to the networks of cognition. The book captures the excitement of finally seeing developmental models that are rigorously based in real neurobiological mechanisms and that will be of tremendous help in unraveling the developmental origins of brain and mind. Everyone interested in neural development and in the design of neurobiologically realistic computational models should be very pleased with this excellent volume."
--Olaf Sporns in BioSystems
[Full text: PDF]

"This is the first book I am aware of that focuses on mathematical models for neural development.[...] Most chapters include a section on future modelling studies, and hence provide a rich source for relevant research problems.[...] This book provides a good survey of mathematical and computational modelling activity in developmental neuroscience, and I recommend it to anyone interested in this area of research."
--Markus Owen in Mathematical Medicine and Biology
[Full text: PDF]

"In conclusion, the book provides a valuable overview on mathematical and computational approaches in developmental neuroscience, and I expect that everyone interested in this field should read it with profit."
--Andreas Schierwagen in Mathematical Biosciences
[Full text: PDF]

Book contents:


Dale Purves

Arjen van Ooyen
[Full text: PDF]

  1. Molecular models of early neural development
    Michel Kerszberg and Jean-Pierre Changeux

  2. Gene network models and neural development
    George Marnellos and Eric D. Mjolsness

  3. Early dendritic and axonal morphogenesis
    H.G.E. Hentschel and A. Fine

  4. Formation of dendritic branching patterns
    Jaap van Pelt, Bruce P. Graham, and Harry B.M.Uylings

  5. Axon guidance and gradient detection by growth cones
    Geoffrey J. Goodhill and Jeffrey S. Urbach

  6. Activity-dependent neurite outgrowth: implications for network development and neuronal morphology
    Arjen van Ooyen, Jaap van Pelt, Michael A. Corner, and Stanley B. Kater
    [Abstract] [Full text: PDF]

  7. Theoretical models of retinal mosaic formation
    Stephen J. Eglen, Lucia Galli-Resta, and Benjamin E. Reese

  8. Activity-dependent modification of intrinsic and synaptic conductances in neurons and rhythmic networks
    L.F. Abbott, Kurt A. Thoroughman, Astrid Prinz, Vatsala Thirumalai, and Eve Marder

  9. Models of neuronal death in vertebrate development: from trophic interactions to network roles
    Peter G. H. Clarke

  10. Competition in the development of nerve connections
    Arjen van Ooyen and Richard R. Ribchester
    [Abstract] [Full text: PDF]

  11. Models for topographic map formation
    David Willshaw and David Price

  12. Development of ocular dominance stripes, orientation selectivity, and orientation columns
    N. V. Swindale

  13. Structural plasticity at the axodendritic interface: some functional implications
    Bartlett W. Mel

  14. Modeling the neural basis of cognitive development
    Steven R. Quartz


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