The problem of free will arises because of the conflict between two inconsistent impulses, the experience of freedom and the conviction of determinism. Perhaps we can resolve these by examining neurobiological correlates of the experience of freedom. If free will is not to be an illusion, it must have a corresponding neurobiological reality. An explanation of this issue leads us to an account of rationality and the self, as well as how consciousness can move bodies at all. I explore two (...) hypotheses. On the first, freedom is a complete illusion. On the second, it is not an illusion, and there is a corresponding indeterminism at the neurobiological level. This can only occur if there is in fact a quantum mechanical element in the fundamental neurobiology of consciousness. (shrink)
Efforts to bridge emotion theory with neurobiology can be facilitated by dynamic systems (DS) modeling. DS principles stipulate higher-order wholes emerging from lower-order constituents through bidirectional causal processes cognition relations. I then present a psychological model based on this reconceptualization, identifying trigger, self-amplification, and self-stabilization phases of emotion-appraisal states, leading to consolidating traits. The article goes on to describe neural structures and functions involved in appraisal and emotion, as well as DS mechanisms of integration by which they interact. These (...) mechanisms include nested feedback interactions, global effects of neuromodulation, vertical integration, action-monitoring, and synaptic plasticity, and they are modeled in terms of both functional integration and temporal synchronization. I end by elaborating the psychological model of emotion–appraisal states with reference to neural processes. (shrink)
What role does the concept of representation play in the contexts of experimentation and explanation in cognitive neurobiology? In this article, a distinction is drawn between minimal and substantive roles for representation. It is argued by appeal to a case study that representation currently plays a role in cognitive neurobiology somewhere in between minimal and substantive and that this is problematic given the ultimate explanatory goals of cognitive neurobiological research. It is suggested that what is needed is for (...) representation to instead play a more substantive role. (shrink)
Patricia Smith Churchland's Neurophilosophy argues that a mind is the same thing as the complex patterns of neural activity in a human brain and, furthermore, that we will be able to find out interesting things about the mind by studying the brain. I basically agree with this stance and my comments are divided into four sections. First, comparisons between human and non?human primate brains are discussed in the context, roughly, of where one should locate higher functions. Second, I examine Churchland's (...) views on reduction and levels of organization, which I find mostly congenial. Third, a key point of disagreement about the relationship and importance of language to specifically human cognition is taken up. I like Churchland's critique of certain sentential paradigms, but I try to show using an analogy with cellular coding systems why we need to get a better theory of ?sentences?. Finally, I discuss how the models introduced in the last chapter might be extended to make better contact with neurobiology and language. (shrink)
The concept of truth arises from puzzling over distinctions between the real and the apparent, while the origin of these distinctions lies in the neurobiology of mammalian cerebral lateralization, that is, in the evolution of brains that can address the world both indicatively and subjunctively; brains that represent the world both categorically and hypothetically. After some 2,500 years of thinking about it, the Western philosophical tradition has come up with three major theories of truth: correspondence, coherence, and pragmatist. Traditional (...) philosophy has nevertheless failed to arbitrate much among these views; certainly no clear winner has emerged. I argue, however, that contemporary neuroscience provides adequate theoretical grounds for a unified theory of truth. More specifically, I contend that the correspondence, the coherence, and the pragmatic utility of symbols are each biological features of our neurophysiological information processing systems—that is to say, our brains. On my view, the traditional trifurcation of philosophical accounts of the predicate, “is true”, stems from a trifurcation of focus on the information latent in sensory, motor, and somatosensory cortices of the human brain. (shrink)
In psychiatry, pharmacological drugs play an important experimental role in attempts to identify the neurobiological causes of mental disorders. Besides being developed in applied contexts as potential treatments for patients with mental disorders, pharmacological drugs play a crucial role in research contexts as experimental instruments that facilitate the formulation and revision of neurobiological theories of psychopathology. This paper examines the various epistemic functions that pharmacological drugs serve in the discovery, refinement, testing, and elaboration of neurobiological theories of mental disorders. I (...) articulate this thesis with reference to the history of antipsychotic drugs and the evolution of the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia in the second half of the twentieth century. I argue that interventions with psychiatric patients through the medium of antipsychotic drugs provide researchers with information and evidence about the neurobiological causes of schizophrenia. This analysis highlights the importance of pharmacological drugs as research tools in the generation of psychiatric knowledge and the dynamic relationship between practical and theoretical contexts in psychiatry. (shrink)
In the last half-century, human neuroscience methods provided a way to study schizophrenia in vivo, and established that it is associated with subtle abnormalities in brain structure and function. However, efforts to understand the neurobiological bases of the clinical symptoms that the diagnosis is based on have been largely unsuccessful. In this paper, we provide an overview of the conceptual and methodological obstacles that undermine efforts to link the severity of specific symptoms to specific neurobiological measures. These obstacles include small (...) samples, questionable reliability and validity of measurements, medication confounds, failure to distinguish state and trait effects, correlation-causation ambiguity, and the absence of compelling animal models of specific symptoms to test mechanistic hypotheses derived from brain-symptom correlations. We conclude with recommendations to promote progress in establishing brain-symptom relationships. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychologists claim that the mind contains “hundreds or thousands” of “genetically speciﬁed” modules, which are evolutionary adaptations for their cognitive functions. We argue that, while the adult human mind/brain typically contains a degree of modularization, its “modules” are neither genetically speciﬁed nor evolutionary adaptations. Rather, they result from the brain’s developmental plasticity, which allows environmental task demands a large role in shaping the brain’s information-processing structures. The brain’s developmental plasticity is our fundamental psychological adaptation, and the “modules” that result (...) from it are adaptive responses to local conditions, not past evolutionary environments. If different individuals share common environ- ments, however, they may develop similar “modules,” and this process can mimic the development of genetically speciﬁed modules in the evolutionary psychologist’s sense. (shrink)
The first use of the term “information” to describe the content of nervous impulse occurs in Edgar Adrian's The Basis of Sensation (1928). What concept of information does Adrian appeal to, and how can it be situated in relation to contemporary philosophical accounts of the notion of information in biology? The answer requires an explication of Adrian's use and an evaluation of its situation in relation to contemporary accounts of semantic information. I suggest that Adrian's concept of information can be (...) to derive a concept of arbitrariness or semioticity in representation. This in turn provides one way of resolving some of the challenges that confront recent attempts in the philosophy of biology to restrict the notion of information to those causal connections that can in some sense be referred to as arbitrary or semiotic. (shrink)
This paper outlines the functional capacities of a novel scheme for cognitive representation and computation, and it explores the possible implementation of this scheme in the massively parallel organization of the empirical brain. The suggestion is that the brain represents reality by means of positions in suitably constitutes phase spaces; and the brain performs computations on these representations by means of coordinate transformations from one phase space to another. This scheme may be implemented in the brain in two distinct forms: (...) (1) as a phase-space sandwich, which may explain certain laminar structures, such as cerebral cortex and the superior colliculus; and (2) as a neural matrix, which may explain other structures, such as the beautifully orthogonal architecture of the cerebellum. (shrink)
Paul Churchland has recently argued that empirical evidence strongly suggests that perception is penetrable to the beliefs or theories held by individual perceivers (1988). While there has been much discussion of the sorts of psychological cases he presents, little has been said about his arguments from neurology. I offer a critical examination of his claim that certain efferents in the brain are evidence against perceptual encapsulation. I argue that his neurological evidence is inadequate to his philosophical goals, both by itself (...) and taken in concert with his psychological evidence. (shrink)
Interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB) is a burgeoning interdisciplinary field that focuses on ways in which relationships shape and transform the architecture and functioning of the human brain. IPNB points to four specific conditions that appear to encourage the emergence of empathy. Further, these conditions, when gathered together, may constitute the core components of a spirituality of compassion. Following definitions and a discussion of interdisciplinary method, this essay delineates IPNB's main tenets and demonstrates ways in which IPNB sheds light on important (...) aspects of human empathy and compassion. Drawing on this analysis, it introduces the four conditions that encourage the emergence of empathy in individuals and groups and shows why they may be central elements of a spirituality of compassion. A case study, in which the Native American Ojibwe practice of the talking circle is described and assessed through the lens of the IPNB-derived spirituality of compassion, demonstrates the evaluative usefulness of this set of conditions. (shrink)
I examine some philosophical arguments as well as current empirical research in molecular neurobiology in order to throw some new light on the question of whether neurological processes are deterministic or indeterministic. I begin by showing that the idea of an autonomous biological indeterminism violates the principle of the supervenience of biological properties on physical properties. If supervenience is accepted, quantum mechanics is the only hope for the neuro-indeterminist. But this would require that indeterministic quantum-mechanical effects play a role (...) in the functioning of the nervous system. I examine several candidates of molecular processes where this could, in theory, be the case. It turns out that there is good news from recent work on ion channels. Unfortunately (for the indeterminist), this good news is neutralised at once by bad news. (shrink)
Lewis proposes a “reconceptualization” of how to link the psychology and neurobiology of emotion and cognitive-emotional interactions. His main proposed themes have actually been actively and quantitatively developed in the neural modeling literature for more than 30 years. This commentary summarizes some of these themes and points to areas of particularly active research in this area.
Gold & Stoljar pose a dilemma for linguistics should neurobiology win out as the science of mind. The dilemma can be avoided by reestablishing linguistics as an autonomous discipline, rather than a branch of the science of mind. Independent considerations for doing this are presented.
The study of consciousness is poised today at interesting crossroads. There has been a surge of research into various neurobiological underpinnings of consciousness in the past decade. The present article looks at the theories regarding this complex phenomenon, especially the ones that neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology have to offer. We will first discuss the origin and etymology of word consciousness and its usage. Neurobiological correlates of consciousness are discussed with structures like the ascending reticular activating system, the (...) amygdala, the cerebellum, the thalamus, the frontoparietal circuits, the prefrontal cortex and the precuneus. The cellular and microlevel theories of consciousness and cerebral activity at the neuronal level contributing to consciousness are highlighted, along with the various theories posited in this area. The role of neuronal assemblies and circuits along with firing patterns and their ramifications for the understanding of consciousness are discussed. A section on the role of anaesthesia and its links to consciousness is presented, along with details of split-brain studies in consciousness and altered states of awareness, including the vegetative states. The article finally discusses the progress cognitive psychology has made in identifying and theorising various perspectives of consciousness, perceptual awareness and conscious processing. Both recent and past researches are highlighted. The importance and salient features of each theory are discussed along with the pitfalls, if present. A need for integration of various theories to understand consciousness from a holistic perspective is stressed, to enable one to reach a theory that explains the ultimate neurobiology of consciousness. (shrink)
Introduction: New approaches to knotty old problems -- Avoiding Cartesian materialism -- From causal reductionism to self-directed systems -- From mindless to intelligent action -- How can neural nets mean? -- How does reason get its grip on the brain? -- Who's responsible? -- Neurobiological reductionism and free will.
Sunstein is right that poorly informed heuristics can influence moral judgment. His case could be strengthened by tightening neurobiologically plausible working definitions regarding what a heuristic is, considering a background moral theory that has more strength in wide reflective equilibrium than “weak consequentialism,” and systematically examining what naturalized virtue theory has to say about the role of heuristics in moral reasoning.
The explanatory gap and theknowledge argument are rooted in the conflationof propositional and phenomenal knowledge. Thebasic knowledge argument is based on theconsideration that ``physical information'' aboutthe nervous system is unable to provide theknowledge of a ``color experience'' (Jackson,1982). The implication is that physicalism isincomplete or false because it leaves somethingunexplained. The problem with Jackson'sargument is that physical information has theform of highly symbolic propositional knowledgewhereas phenomenal knowledge consists in innateneurophysiological processes. In addition totheir fundamental epistemological differences,clinical, anatomical, pathological and brainimaging (...) studies demonstrate that phenomenal andpropositional knowledge are fundamentallydifferent neurobiological processes. Propositional knowledge is phylogeneticallynew, highly symbolic, culturally acquired,exclusively human and expressible in differentnatural and artificial languages. By contrast,phenomenal knowledge (i.e.: knowingwhat-it-is-like to see a color) consists inqualitative experiences and phenomenal conceptsthat provide an internal, language-independentreference to the properties of objects and theneeds of the organism. Language andpropositional knowledge are exclusively humanattributes implemented in specific regions ofthe dominant hemisphere. This contrastssharply with the phylogenicallysensory areas that are common to animals andhumans, which implement qualitativeexperiences. Experiences are hard-wiredneurobiological processes that can neither betransmitted nor re-created through thesymbolism of propositions. Thus, I concludethat the fallacy in the explanatory gap and inthe knowledge argument is a fallacy ofequivocation that results from ignoringfundamental neurobiological differences betweenphenomenal and propositional knowledge. (shrink)
Bridging between psychological and neurobiological systems requires that the system components are closely specified at both the psychological and brain levels of analysis. We argue that in developing his dynamic systems theory framework, Lewis has sidestepped the notion of a psychological level systems model altogether, and has taken a partisan approach to his exposition of a brain-level systems model.
The Depue & Collins model is intended to explain a normal human personality trait: extraversion. In contrast, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is generally considered to be a type of psychopathology not found in so-called normals; however, the clinical and neurobiological research done on ADHD seems to amplify and support Depue & Collins's model.
This article argues that understanding everyday practices in neurobiological labs requires us to take into account a variety of different action positions: self-conscious social actors, technical artifacts, conscious organisms, and organisms being merely alive. In order to understand the interactions among such diverse entities, highly differentiated conceptual tools are required. Drawing on the theory of the German philosopher and sociologist Helmuth Plessner, the paper analyzes experimenters as self-conscious social persons who recognize monkeys as conscious organisms. Integrating Plessner’s ideas into the (...) stock of concepts used in science and technology studies provides richer descriptions of laboratory life. In particular, this theory allows an understanding of a crucial feature of neurobiological brain research: the construction of the brain as the epistemic object of brain research. As such, the brain must be isolated from the acting and interacting organism in a complicated process. (shrink)
Recent investigations have explored how large-scale systems in the brain operate in the processes of retrieving knowledge for words and concepts. Much of the crucial evidence derives from lesion studies, because word retrieval and concept retrieval can be clearly dissociated in brain-damaged individuals. We discuss these findings from the perspective of our neurobiological framework, which is cited in Pulvermüller's target article.
Depue & Morrone-Strupinsky (D&M-S) do not address how a reward system accommodates the motivational dilemmas associated with (a) the decision to approach versus avoid conspecifics, and (b) self versus other tradeoffs inherent in behaving altruistically toward bonded relationship partners. We provide an alternative evolutionary view that addresses motivational conflict, and discuss implications for the neurobiological study of affiliative bonds.
The neurobiological mechanisms associated with affiliation, that Depue & Collins argue are a central component of extraversion are not specified in their model. In addition, only the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in extraversion is discussed, although recent evidence suggests that activity associated with additional cortical regions may be related to this trait. Finally, the assumption that neurobiological mechanisms underlie or play a causal, and therefore, more fundamental role than psychological constructs in the trait is challenged.
This work aims at presenting some hypotheses about the potential neurobiological substrate of imagery and imagination. For the present purposes, we will define imagery as the production of mental images associated with previous percepts, and imagination as the faculty of forming mental images of a novel character relating to something that has never been actually experienced by the subject but at a great extent emerges from his inner world. The two processes appear intimately related and imagery can arguably be considered (...) as one of the main components of imagination. In this proposal, we argue that exaptation and redeployment, two basic concepts capturing important aspects of the evolution of biological structures and functions (Anderson 2007), could also be useful in explaining imagery and imagination. As far as imagery is concerned it is proposed that neural structures originally implicated in performing certain functions, e.g. motor actions, can be reused for the imagery of the virtual execution of that function. As far as imagination is concerned we speculate that it can be the result of a “tinkering” that combines and modifies stored perceptual information and concepts leading to the creation of novel “mental objects” that are shaped by the subject peculiar inner world. Hence it is related to his self-awareness. The neurobiological substrate of the tinkering process could be found in a hierarchical model of the brain characterized by a multiplicity of functional modules (FMs) that can be assembled according to different spatial and temporal scales. Thus, it is surmised that a possible mechanism for the emergence of imagination could be represented by modulatory mechanisms controlling the perviousness of “modifiers” along the communication channels within and between FMs leading to their dynamically reassembling into novel configurations. (shrink)
We offer a theory regarding the symbolism of the human body in legal discourse. The theory blends legal theory, the neuroscience of empathy, and biosemiotics, a branch of semiotics that combines semiotics with theoretical biology. Our theory posits that this symbolism of the body is not solely a metaphor or semiotic sign of how law is cognitively structured in the mind. We propose that it also signifies neurobiological mechanisms of social emotion in the brain that are involved in the social (...) and moral decision-making and behavior that law generally seeks to govern. Specifically, we hypothesize that the symbol of a collective human body in the language of law signifies neural mechanisms of pain empathy which generate a virtual, neurally simulated, emotional sense of sharing the feelings or pain of others and of thereby being one-in-body with or virtually equal to them. We speculate that this may be the neural basis of what is signified in legal and political theory as the “body politic” or “sense of equality,” because neuroscience and psychiatry further suggest that such pain empathy may provide the natural, emotional motivation to think and act in a rights-based manner. We conclude that misunderstanding of these neural mechanisms of pain empathy and related misinterpretation of this corporeal symbolism for the same may have long resulted in legal discourse that misinterprets the function of “pain” in the law and misinterprets the associated positive law, specifically the law regarding individual, equality-based rights and criminal justice, in particular, punishment theory. (shrink)
Taking children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) as an example, the article seeks an understanding of children with disabilities that connects neuropsychological theories of neural development with the situated cognition perspective and the child as an active participant in its social practices. The early brain lesion of CP is reconceptualised as a neurobiological constraint that exists in the relations between the neural, cognitive and social levels. Through a multi-method study of two children with CP, it is analysed how neurobiological constraints arise, (...) evolve and sometimes are resolved through local matches between the child and its social practices. The result is discussed as support of a developmental science approach that includes processes at the social practice level along with knowledge of biological processes. (shrink)
Disregard of primary-process consciousness is endemic in mind science. Most neuroscientists subscribe to ruthless reductionism whereby mental qualities are discarded in preference for neuronal functions. Such ideas often lead to envisioning other animals, and all too often other humans, as unfeeling zombies. Merker correctly highlights how the roots of consciousness exist in ancient neural territories we share, remarkably homologously, with all the other vertebrates. (Published Online May 1 2007).