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Greenfield, Susan (Adele), Baroness

brain system oxford pharmacology

(1950– ) British neuroscientist and pharmacologist.

Greenfield entered Oxford to read classics and emerged with a doctorate in pharmacology, and after working in neuroscience in Paris, New York, La Jolla and Belfast returned to Oxford, becoming professor of pharmacology in 1996. In 1998 she also became Director of the Royal Institution, and the first woman to hold this post. Her interests focus on both the biochemistry and the physics of the mind and brain, and her books and lectures (using also radio and TV) made her the best-known neuroscientist in the UK at the beginning of the 21st-c. She has a special interest in degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and in the possible links between them and Parkinson’s disease.

The basic anatomical unit of the brain is the neuron: the brain contains about 10 11 of these nerve cells. From the 1960s there was a trend to consider these as binary switches having only two states (excited and inhibited) and, extending the analogy, the brain as a type of computer with hardware and software. Greenfield rejects this view, seeing the chemical neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and hormones, together with the neuronal system, as forming a much more complex system. She sees consciousness as associated with successive transient assemblies of millions of interacting neurons, affected by sensory inputs from vision, sound, smell and touch, together with emotions and past experiences. Her views have found much support, but experimental evidence remains elusive on the nature of consciousness and of memory, partly because existing methods are unable to capture rapid brain events.

Gregory, Frederick D.(1941–) - Astronaut, Changes Direction and Makes History, Chronology [next] [back] Greenfield, Jerry - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Jerry Greenfield

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