Neuroscientists are entering the federally designated "Decade of the Brain" armed with a toolbox bulging with new instruments and techniques. Many have been borrowed from other disciplines; others have been specifically designed to probe the secrets of the nervous system.

The variety of tools available reflects the diversity of the researchers who consider themselves neuroscientists. "Neuroscience represents a fusion of several scientific disciplines--biophysics, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, and psychology--all focused on acquiring an ultimate understanding of the relationships between brain and behavior," explained the National Advisory Mental Health Council to Congress in a 1988 report on opportunities for neuroscience research.

The field came into its own only two decades ago, and has grown explosively. When it was founded in 1969, the Society for Neuroscience comprised 500 original members. Today, the society's rolls hold 17,000 names, with 15,000 people expected to attend this week's 20th annual meeting in St. Louis (October...

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