This introductory chapter provides an overview of the emergence of a neuromolecular vision of the brain. This means a new scale at which the brain and nervous system was conceptualized, and a new way in which their activities were understood. At this molecular level, the structure and processes of the brain and central nervous system were made understandable as material processes of interaction among molecules in neurons and the synapses between them. These were conceived in terms of the biophysical, chemical, and electrical properties of their constituent parts. At this scale, in a profoundly reductionist approach, despite the recognition that there was much that could not yet be explained, there seemed nothing mysterious about the operations of the nervous system. Indeed, mental processes—cognition, emotion, volition—could be explained in entirely material ways, as the outcome of biological processes in the brain.
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