A decade of neuroscience

There has been an interesting article in PloS One. Mapping Change in Large Netwroks by M. Rosvall and C. Bergstrom. The article is about a method they developed to map network changes and somewhat off the topic of this blog. However, they use the emergence of Neuroscience as a dramatic example of network change.

…In the same diagram, we also highlight the biggest structural change in scientific citation patterns over the past decade: the transformation of neuroscience from interdisciplinary specialty to a mature and stand-alone discipline, comparable to physics or chemistry, economics or law, molecular biology or medicine. In 2001, 102 neuroscience journals, lead by the Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron, and Nature Neuroscience, are assigned with statistical significance to the field of molecular and cell biology. Further, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, Psychophysiology, and 33 other journals appear with statistical insignificance in psychology and Neurology, Annals of Neurology, Stroke and 77 other journals appear with statistical significance in neurology. In 2003, many of these journals remain in molecular and cell biology, but their assignment to this field is no longer significant. The transformation is underway. In 2005, neuroscience first emerges as an independent discipline. The journals from molecular biology split off completely from their former field and have merged with neurology and a subset of psychology into the significantly stand-alone field of neuroscience.

In their citation behavior, neuroscientists have finally cleaved from their traditional disciplines and united to form what is now the fifth largest field in the sciences (after molecular and cell biology, physics, chemistry, and medicine). Although this interdisciplinary integration has been ongoing since the 1950s, only in the last decade has this change come to dominate the citation structure of the field and overwhelm the intellectual ties along traditional departmental lines.

The diagram that results from their analysis is impressive with its river of neuroscience. ( here ) This research activity has grown over just a decade. Further what is not included is some of the activity in artificial intelligence and robotics that may overlap with neuroscience. It is this revolution in understanding the brain that prompted me to start this blog. I was afraid of how hard it would be for ordinary people to adapt to what the new science was going to show about consciousness.

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