An Introduction to the Biology of Vision

James T. McIlwain

Cambridge University Press 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
In this volume McIlwain offers a broad account of the anatomy and neurobiology of human vision. Part one describes the structure and development of the human eye, image formation and eye optics, and the pathways from the retina into the brain. Part two covers the neural mechanisms of vision, looking in turn at photoreceptors, the retinal circuitry, the retino-geniculate projection, and the visual cortex. And part three tackles some special topics: spatial resolution, depth perception and binocular vision, color vision, and ocular movements.

The focus is on human biology: primate and cat systems feature, as the best-studied experimental subjects, but there's only the occasional comparative glance at invertebrate visual systems and no attempt to chart the evolution of the vertebrate eye. The approach is also "bottom-up", from neurobiology, anatomy and physiology, without clinical or cognitive perspectives. This focus, however, allows McIlwain to go into surprising depth for a short book, and to treat some "advanced" topics; and each chapter has a further reading list for those after more.

An Introduction to the Biology of Vision is a textbook, and quite a densely packed one. It's a readable volume, however, with clear explanations and effective diagrams: anyone with a basic understanding of the nervous system who wants to delve into the workings of human vision should find it a useful guide.

March 2004

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%T An Introduction to the Biology of Vision
%A McIlwain, James T.
%I Cambridge University Press
%D 1996
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN 0521498902
%P x,222pp