METHODS FOR STUDYING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Individual neurons—activated by neurotransmitters binding to their receptors and then sending signals down their axons, causing the release of more neurotransmitter— are the building blocks of the nervous system. But how are these building blocks assem-bled to create a system that can control the beating of our hearts, the temperature of our body’s core, or the rhythm of our sleeping and waking? Indeed, how are these building blocks assembled into a system complex enough to make possible our emotions, thoughts, and actions?
We’ve made enormous progress in understanding these issues, thanks partly to the extraordinary research tools that have become available to neuroscientists in the last few decades. Let’s pause to examine some of these tools and then turn to what we’ve learned by using them.