Many philosophers as well as many biological psychologists think that recent experiments in neuropsychology have definitively discredited any notion of freedom of the will. I argue that the arguments mounted against the concept of freedom of the will in the name of natural causal determinism are valuable but not new, and that they leave intact a concept of freedom of the will that is compatible with causal determinism. After explaining this concept, I argue that it is interestingly related to our (...) use of the first person pronoun “I.” I discuss three examples of our use of “I” in thought and language and submit a few questions I would like neuropsychologists to answer concerning the brain processes that might underlie those uses. I suggest answering these questions would support the compatibilist notion of freedom of the will I have offered in part 1 of the paper. (shrink)
Enactive approaches foreground the role of interpersonal interaction in explanations of social understanding. This motivates, in combination with a recent interest in neuroscientific studies involving actual interactions, the question of how interactive processes relate to neural mechanisms involved in social understanding. We introduce the Interactive Brain Hypothesis (IBH) in order to help map the spectrum of possible relations between social interaction and neural processes. The hypothesis states that interactive experience and skills play enabling roles in both the development and (...) current function of social brain mechanisms, even in cases where social understanding happens in the absence of immediate interaction. We examine the plausibility of this hypothesis against developmental and neurobiological evidence and contrast it with the widespread assumption that mindreading is crucial to all social cognition. We describe the elements of social interaction that bear most directly on this hypothesis and discuss the empirical possibilities open to social neuroscience. We propose that the link between coordination dynamics and social understanding can be best grasped by studying transitions between states of coordination. These transitions form part of the self-organization of interaction processes that characterize the dynamics of social engagement. The patterns and synergies of this self-organization help explain how individuals understand each other. Various possibilities for role-taking emerge during interaction, determining a spectrum of participation. This view contrasts sharply with the observational stance that has guided research in social neuroscience until recently. We also introduce the concept of readiness to interact to describe the practices and dispositions that are summoned in situations of social significance (even if not interactive). This latter idea links interactive factors to more classical observational scenarios. (shrink)
This paper defends cognitive neuroscience’s project of developing mechanistic explan- ations of cognitive processes through decomposition and localization against objections raised by William Uttal in The New Phrenology. The key issue between Uttal and researchers pursuing cognitive neuroscience is that Uttal bets against the possibility of decomposing mental operations into component elementary operations which are localized in distinct brain regions. The paper argues that it is through advancing and revising what are likely to be overly simplistic and incorrect decompositions (...) that the goals of cognitive neuroscience are likely to be achieved. (shrink)
Since educators are always looking for ways to improve their practice, and since empirical science is now accepted in our worldview as the final arbiter of truth, it is no surprise they have been lured toward cognitive neuroscience in hopes that discovering how the brain learns will provide a nutshell explanation for student learning in general. I argue that identifying the person with the brain is scientism (not science), that the brain is not the person, and that (...) it is the person who learns. In fact the brain only responds to the learning of embodied experience within the extra-neural network of intersubjective communications. Learning is a dynamic, cultural activity, not a neural program. Brain-based learning is unnecessary for educators and may be dangerous in that a culturally narrow ontology is taken for granted, thus restricting our creativity and imagination, and narrowing the human community. (shrink)
In our contribution we will observe phenomenal architecture of a mind and operational architectonics of the brain and will show their intimate connectedness within a single integrated metastable continuum. The notion of operation of different complexity is the fundamental and central one in bridging the gap between brain and mind: it is precisely by means of this notion that it is possible to identify what at the same time belongs to the phenomenal conscious level and to the neurophysiological (...) level of brain activity organization, and what mediates between them. Implications for linguistic semantics, self-organized distributed computing algorithms, artificial machine consciousness, and diagnosis of dynamic brain diseases will be discussed briefly. (shrink)
I argue against a growing radical trend in current theoretical cognitive science that moves from the premises of embedded cognition, embodied cognition, dynamical systems theory and/or situated robotics to conclusions either to the effect that the mind is not in the brain or that cognition does not require representation, or both. I unearth the considerations at the foundation of this view: Haugeland's bandwidth-component argument to the effect that the brain is not a component in cognitive activity, and arguments (...) inspired by dynamical systems theory and situated robotics to the effect that cognitive activity does not involve representations. Both of these strands depend not only on a shift of emphasis from higher cognitive functions to things like sensorimotor processes, but also depend on a certain understanding of how sensorimotor processes are implemented - as closed-loop control systems. I describe a much more sophisticated model of sensorimotor processing that is not only more powerful and robust than simple closed-loop control, but for which there is great evidence that it is implemented in the nervous system. The is the emulation theory of representation, according to which the brain constructs inner dynamical models, or emulators, of the body and environment which are used in parallel with the body and environment to enhance motor control and perception and to provide faster feedback during motor processes, and can be run off-line to produce imagery and evaluate sensorimotor counterfactuals. I then show that the emulation framework is immune to the radical arguments, and makes apparent why the brain is a component in the cognitive activity, and exactly what the representations are in sensorimotor control. (shrink)
Given that the mind is the brain, as materialists insist, those who would understand the mind must understand the brain. Assuming that arrays of neural firing frequencies are highly salient aspects of brain information processing (the vector functional account), four hurdles to an understanding of the brain are identified and inspected: indeterminacy, micro-specificity, chaos, and openness.
The target paper of Dr. Feinberg is a testimony to an admirable scholarship and deep thoughtfulness. This paper develops a general theoretical framework of nested hierarchy in the brain that allows production of mind with consciousness. The difference between non-nested and nested hierarchies is the following. In a non-nested hierarchy the entities at higher levels of the hierarchy are physically independent from the entities at lower levels and there is strong constraint of higher upon lower levels. In a nested (...) hierarchy, higher levels are physically composed of lower levels, and there is no central control of the system resulting in weak constraint of higher upon lower levels. (shrink)
One of the characteristics of the relationship between the developed and developing worlds is the ‘brain drain’– the phenomenon by which expertise moves towards richer countries, thereby condemning poorer countries to continued comparative and absolute poverty. It is tempting to see the phenomenon as a moral problem in its own right, such that there is a moral imperative to end it, that is separate from (and additional to) any moral imperative to relieve the burden of poverty. However, it is (...) not clear why this should be so – why, that is, there is a moral reason to stem the flow of expertise in addition to seeking to improve welfare. In this paper, I examine three explanations of the putative moral aspect of the brain drain. (shrink)
This article provides a retrospective, current and prospective overview on developments in brain research and neuroscience. Both theoretical and empirical studies are considered, with emphasis in the concept of multivariability and metastability in the brain. In this new view on the human brain, the potential multivariability of the neuronal networks appears to be far from continuous in time, but confined by the dynamics of short-term local and global metastable brain states. The article closes by suggesting some (...) of the implications of this view in future multidisciplinary brain research. (shrink)
Exploring the relevance of biological discovery to philosophical topics such as perception, freedom, determinism, and ethical values, J.Z. Young's provocative book illuminates the significant links between these philosophical concepts and recent developments in biology and the neurosciences. In clear-cut language, Young describes the brain and its functions, examining questions concerning physical makeup versus "real" self, the awareness of our moral sense, and how human consciousness differs from that of other animals. He approaches perception not as a passive process but (...) as an active search for information, suggesting that human knowledge develops from a special process--essential to all organisms--of gathering information for survival. (shrink)
Sleep researchers in different disciplines disagree about how fully dreaming can be explained in terms of brain physiology. Debate has focused on whether REM sleep dreaming is qualitatively different from nonREM (NREM) sleep and waking. A review of psychophysiological studies shows clear quantitative differences between REM and NREM mentation and between REM and waking mentation. Recent neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies also differentiate REM, NREM, and waking in features with phenomenological implications. Both evidence and theory suggest that there are isomorphisms (...) between the phenomenology and the physiology of dreams. We present a three-dimensional model with specific examples from normally and abnormally changing conscious states. Key Words: consciousness; dreaming; neuroimaging; neuromodulation; NREM; phenomenology; qualia; REM; sleep. (shrink)
To figure out whether the main empirical question “Is our brain hardwired to believe in and produce God, or is our brain hardwired to perceive and experience God?” is answered, this paper presents systematic critical review of the positions, arguments and controversies of each side of the neuroscientific-theological debate and puts forward an integral view where the human is seen as a psycho-somatic entity consisting of the multiple levels and dimensions of human existence (physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual (...) reality), allowing consciousness/mind/spirit and brain/body/matter to be seen as different sides of the same phenomenon, neither reducible to each other. The emergence of a form of causation distinctive from physics where mental/conscious agency (a) is neither identical with nor reducible to brain processes and (b) does exert “downward” causal influence on brain plasticity and the various levels of brain functioning is discussed. This manuscript also discusses the role of cognitive processes in religious experience and outlines what can neuroscience offer for study of religious experience and what is the significance of this study for neuroscience, clinicians, theology and philosophy. A methodological shift from “explanation” to “description” of religious experience is suggested. This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion between theologians, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
This volume provides an up to date and comprehensive overview of the philosophy and neuroscience movement, which applies the methods of neuroscience to traditional philosophical problems and uses philosophical methods to illuminate issues in neuroscience. At the heart of the movement is the conviction that basic questions about human cognition, many of which have been studied for millennia, can be answered only by a philosophically sophisticated grasp of neuroscience's insights into the processing of information by the human brain. Essays (...) in this volume are clustered around five major themes: data and theory in neuroscience; neural representation and computation; visuomotor transformations; color vision; and consciousness. (shrink)
The philosophical innateness debate has long relied onpsychological evidence. For a century, however, a parallel debate hastaken place within neuroscience. In this paper, I consider theimplications of this neuroscience debate for the philosophicalinnateness debate. By combining the tools of theoretical neurobiologyand learning theory, I introduce the ``problem of development'' that alladaptive systems must solve, and suggest how responses to this problemcan demarcate a number of innateness proposals. From this perspective, Isuggest that the majority of natural systems are in fact innate. (...) Lastly,I consider the acquistion strategies implemented by the human brain andsuggest that there is a rigorous way of characterizing these ``neuralconstructivist'' strategies as not being strongly innate. Alternatives toinnateness are thus both rigorously definable and empirically supported. (shrink)
This paper briefly review a current trend in neuroscience aiming to combine neurophysiological and physical concepts in order to understand the emergence of spatio-temporal patterns within brain activity by which brain constructs knowledge from multiple streams of information. The authors further suggest that the meanings, which subjectively are experienced as thoughts or perceptions can best be described objectively as created and carried by large fields of neural activity within the operational architectonics of brain functioning.
The main idea -- The functioning of a neuron -- Brain structure and function -- The general structure of the neural network -- Instincts, emotions, free will -- The nature of mental objects -- The rise and essence of (self-)consciousness -- Artificial intelligence -- Cognitive limitations of man.
The target articles in this volume address the three major questions about dreaming that have been most responsible for the delay in progress in this field over the past 25 years. These are: (1) Where in the brain is dreaming produced, given that dream reports can be elicited from sleep stages other than REM? (2) Do dream plots have any intrinsic meaning? (3) Does dreaming serve some specialized function? The answers offered here when added together support a new model (...) of dreaming that is testable, and should revitalize this area of study. [Hobson et al.; Nielsen; Revonsuo; Solms; Vertes & Eastman]. (shrink)
Throughout history, dance has maintained a critical presence across all human cultures, defying barriers of class, race, and status. How dance has synergistically co-evolved with humans has fueled a rich debate on the function of art and the essence of aesthetic experience, engaging numerous artists, historians, philosophers, and scientists. While dance shares many features with other art forms, one attribute unique to dance is that it is most commonly expressed with the human body. Because of this, social scientists and neuroscientists (...) are turning to dance and dancers to help answer questions of how the brain coordinates the body to perform complex, precise, and beautiful movements. In the present paper, we discuss how recent advances in neuroscientific methods provide the tools to advance our understanding of not only the cerebral phenomena associated with dance learning and observation but also the neural underpinnings of aesthetic appreciation associated with watching dance. We suggest that future work within the fields of dance neuroscience and neuroaesthetics have the potential to provide mutual benefits to both the scientific and artistic communities. (shrink)
Two forms of independent action by consciousness have been proposed by various researchers – free will and holistic processing. (Holistic processing contributes to the formation of behavior through the holistic use of brain programs and encoding.) The well-known experiment of Libet et al. (1983) implies that if free will exists, its action must consist of making a selection among alternatives presented by the brain. As discussed herein, this result implies that any physical changes mind can produce in the (...)brain are very small, and this in turn implies that holistic processing would also act to select among brain programs. The latter process would contribute to flexibility of behavior, which would therefore be an indication of the possible presence of consciousness in an animal. Because locomotion requires response to varying and unpredictable conditions, the above conclusions support the idea that simple forms of consciousness appear very early in the evolutionary line of the animal kingdom. (shrink)
What is consciousness? Conventional approaches see it as an emergent property of complex interactions among individual neurons; however these approaches fail to address enigmatic features of consciousness. Accordingly, some philosophers have contended that "qualia," or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being composed of "occasions of experience." To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come to (...) terms with the physics of spacetime-as described by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and its relation to the fundamental theory of matter-as described by quantum theory. Roger Penrose has proposed a new physics of objective reduction: "OR," which appeals to a form of quantum gravity to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline.hz Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific "objective" criterion (a threshold related to quantum gravity) is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces (objective reduction: OR). We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness which distinguishes our minds from classical computers. Each OR is taken as an instantaneous event-the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental spacetime-and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead "occasion of experience." How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate a quantum computational OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. In this model, quantum-superposed states develop in microtubule subunit proteins ("tubulins") within certain brain neurons, remain coherent, and recruit more superposed tubulins until a mass-time-energy threshold (related to quantum gravity) is reached.. (shrink)
The understanding of the interrelationship between brain and mind remains far from clear. It is well established that the brain's capacity to integrate information from numerous sources forms the basis for cognitive abilities. However, the core unresolved question is how information about the "objective" physical entities of the external world can be integrated, and how unifiedand coherent mental states (or Gestalts) can be established in the internal entities of distributed neuronal systems. The present paper offers a unified methodological (...) and conceptual basis for a possible mechanism of how the transient synchronization of brain operations may construct the unified and relatively stable neural states, which underlie mental states. It was shown that the sequence of metastable spatial EEG mosaics does exist and probably reflects the rapid stabilization periods of the interrelation of large neuron systems. At the EEG level this is reflected in the stabilization of quasi-stationary segments on corresponding channels. Within the introduced framework, physical brain processes and psychological processes are considered as two basic aspects of a single whole informational brain state. The relations between operational process of the brain, mental states and consciousness are discussed. (shrink)
Two very different insights motivate characterizing the brain as a computer. One depends on mathematical theory that defines computability in a highly abstract sense. Here the foundational idea is that of a Turing machine. Not an actual machine, the Turing machine is really a conceptual way of making the point that any well-defined function could be executed, step by step, according to simple 'if-you-are-in-state-P-and-have-input-Q-then-do-R' rules, given enough time (maybe infinite time) [see COMPUTATION]. Insofar as the brain is a (...) device whose input and output can be characterized in terms of some mathematical function -- however complicated -- then in that very abstract sense, it can be mimicked by a Turning machine. Given what is known so far brains do seem to depend on cause-effect operations, and hence brains appear to be, in some formal sense, equivalent to a Turing machine [see CHURCH-TURING THESIS]. On its own, however, this reveals nothing at all of how the mind-brain actually works. The second insight depends on looking at the brain as a biological device that processes information from the environment to build complex representations that enable the brain to make predictions and select advantageous behaviors. Where necessary to avoid ambiguity, we will refer to the first notion of computation as. (shrink)
The analysis of mental concepts suggests that the distinctionbetween the mental and the nonmental is not ontologically fundamental,and that, whereas mental processes are one and the same things as thebrain processes with which they are correlated, dispositional mentalstates depend causally on and are, thus, ''''distinct existences'''' fromthe states of the brain microstructure with which ''they'' are correlated.It is argued that this difference in the relation between an entity andits composition/underlying structure applies across the board. allstuffs and processes are the (...) same thing as is described by a descriptionof their microstructure. In all cases where the manifestation of adisposition extends beyond the ''''skin'''' of the dispositional propertybearer, dispositions invariably depend causally on the structure,usually the microstructure, of the bearer. (shrink)
Louise Barrett, beyond the brain: how body and environment shape animal and human minds Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-7 DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9247-6 Authors Mirko Farina, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Institute of Human Cognition and Brain Science (IHCBS), Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia Journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Online ISSN 1572-8676 Print ISSN 1568-7759.
According to a growing trend in theoretical neuroscience, the human perceptual system is akin to a Bayesian machine. The aim of this article is to clearly articulate the claims that perception can be considered Bayesian inference and that the brain can be considered a Bayesian machine, some of the epistemological challenges to these claims; and some of the implications of these claims. We address two questions: (i) How are Bayesian models used in theoretical neuroscience? (ii) From the use of (...) Bayesian models in theoretical neuroscience, have we learned or can we hope to learn that perception is Bayesian inference or that the brain is a Bayesian machine? From actual practice in theoretical neuroscience, we argue for three claims. First, currently Bayesian models do not provide mechanistic explanations; instead they are useful devices for predicting and systematizing observational statements about people's performances in a variety of perceptual tasks. That is, currently we should have an instrumentalist attitude towards Bayesian models in neuroscience. Second, the inference typically drawn from Bayesian behavioural performance in a variety of perceptual tasks to underlying Bayesian mechanisms should be understood within the three-level framework laid out by David Marr (  ). Third, we can hope to learn that perception is Bayesian inference or that the brain is a Bayesian machine to the extent that Bayesian models will prove successful in yielding secure and informative predictions of both subjects' perceptual performance and features of the underlying neural mechanisms. (shrink)
The topics treated in The brain and emotion include the definition, nature, and functions of emotion (Ch. 3); the neural bases of emotion (Ch. 4); reward, punishment, and emotion in brain design (Ch. 10); a theory of consciousness and its application to understanding emotion and pleasure (Ch. 9); and neural networks and emotion-related learning (Appendix). The approach is that emotions can be considered as states elicited by reinforcers (rewards and punishers). This approach helps with understanding the functions of (...) emotion, with classifying different emotions, and in understanding what information-processing systems in the brain are involved in emotion, and how they are involved. The hypothesis is developed that brains are designed around reward-and punishment-evaluation systems, because this is the way that genes can build a complex system that will produce appropriate but flexible behavior to increase fitness (Ch. 10). By specifying goals rather than particular behavioral patterns of responses, genes leave much more open the possible behavioral strategies that might be required to increase fitness. The importance of reward and punishment systems in brain design also provides a basis for understanding the brain mechanisms of motivation, as described in Chapters 2 for appetite and feeding, 5 for brain-stimulation reward, 6 for addiction, 7 for thirst, and 8 for sexual behavior. Key Words: amygdala; brain evolution; consciousness; dopamine; emotion; hunger; orbitofrontal cortex; punishment; reward; taste. (shrink)
Lehar provides useful insights into spatially extended phenomenology that may have major consequences for neuroscience. However, Lehar's biological naturalism leads to counterintuitive conclusions, and he does not give an accurate account of preceding and competing work. This commentary compares Lehar's analysis with that of Velmans, which addresses similar issues but draws opposite conclusions. Lehar argues that the phenomenal world is in the brain and concludes that the physical skull is beyond the phenomenal world. Velmans argues that the brain (...) is in the phenomenal world and concludes that the physical skull is where it seems to be. (shrink)
In restricting his analysis to the causal relations of functionalism, on the one hand, and the neurophysiological realizers of biology, on the other, Palmer has overlooked an alternative conception of the relationship between color experience and the brain - one that liberalises the relation between mental phenomena and their physical implementation, without generating functionalism.
Body representations traverse the whole of the brain. They provide vital sources of information for every facet of an animal’s behavior, and such direct neural connectivity of visceral input throughout the nervous system demonstrates just how strongly cognitive systems are linked to bodily representations. At each level of the neural axis there are visceral appraisal systems that are integral in the organization of action. Cognition is not one side of a divide and viscera the other, with action merely a (...) reflexive outcome. There is no divide between cognition and bodily functions once the brain is involved. Cognitive mechanisms that permeate neural function are a cardinal piece of biological function and adaptation. (shrink)
Nunez's description of the brain as a medium capable of wave propagation has provided some fundamental insights into its dynamics. This approach soon reaches the descriptive limits of the brain as a physical system, however. We point out some biological constraints which differentiate the brain from physical systems and we elaborate on its consequences for future research.
Present discussions in philosophy of mind focuson ontological and epistemic characteristics ofmind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast,ontological and epistemic characteristics ofthe brain have rarely been thematized. Rather,philosophy seems to rely upon an implicitdefinition of the brain as "neuronal object''and "object of recognition'': henceontologically and epistemically distinct fromthe mind, characterized as "mental subject'' and"subject of recognition''. This leads to the"brain-paradox''. This ontological and epistemicdissociation between brain and mind can beconsidered central for the problems of mind (...) andmind-brain relations that have yet to beresolved in philosophy. The brain itself hasnot been thematized epistemically andontologically, leading to a "brain problem''.The epistemic and ontological dissociationbetween brain and mind presupposes an"isolated'' picture of the brain, characterizedby context-independence (i.e. "isolation'' frombody and environment). We can describe thisview as an extrinsic relationship betweenbrain, body and environment. However, based onrecent empirical findings about body image andphantom sensations, we can no longer considerthe brain as context-independent or "isolated''from its bodily and environmental context.Instead, the brain must be considered"embedded''. Within the context of 'embeddment',brain and bodily/environmental context seemmutually to determine each other, and hence bereciprocally dependent on each other. We candescribe this as an intrinsic relationshipbetween brain, body and environment.Defining the brain as "embedded'' undermines theepistemic and ontological dissociation betweenbrain and mind and consequently resolves the"brain-paradox''. This resolution sheds novellight on problems of mind and mind-brainrelations by relativizing both. It is thereforeconcluded that philosophy should thematizeontological and epistemic characteristics ofthe brain, thereby taking into account the"brain problem'' and developing a "philosophy ofthe brain''. This approach not only opens a newfield in philosophy but also extends the focusof empirical investigation in the neurosciencesto take into account the intrinsic relationshipbetween brain, body and environment. (shrink)
We question the ecological plausibility as a general model of cognition of van der Velde's & de Kamps's combinatorial blackboard architecture, where knowledge-binding in space and time relies on the structural rules of language. Evidence against their view of the brain and an ecologically plausible, alternative model of cognition are brought forward.
Genes dance. They dance with culture. Theydance with environment. Genes act on the world through the brain, mind and behavior. Historically, psychologists, therapists,educators and most lay people have understoodgenes in the context of Gregor Mendel'sexperiments, which were only partiallyexplained to us. While many studies show thatbrain structures and behaviors have quiterobust influences from inheritance, mostbehavior is not influenced in the classic waywe were taught in our introduction to genetics– which has been revolutionized by molecularstudies and understandings that most of (...) theimportant genes of everyday life arequantitative, or polygenic.Popular culture and naïve theory has a verysimplistic view of genes. They are bad,impolite and vaguely anti-democratic if notsinister. A very simple truth exists, however.Were it not for the genes of our grandparents,no one would be reading this article.This article introduces the reader to an ideathat emerges from evolutionary psychology andbehavior genetics, which may turn our thinkinginside out. For the most part, genes are giftsof nature to solve problems, and to hedge a beton the future. Most true genetic diseases,regulated by the classic processes that Mendelobserved, are extremely rare – typically belowone in several hundred. Most of the behaviorsthat cause us grief or joy in our homes,schools and communities and with some form ofgenetic contribution happen far more often –3%, 5%, 10% or more of the time in thepopulation. If such behaviors were ``defects''harming our reproductive success, Mother Naturewould have quickly made short work of thosegenes in a handful of generations. The factthat many of the genes related to thesebehaviors and subtle changes in the brain seemto have been recent changes (pejorativelycalled by some ``mutations'') in the past fewthousand years implies that these changes are insome sense Nature's Gifts.Gifts are to be treasured, saved and perhapspassed on. Sometimes a gift may be burdensome. This paper is about reframing and explainingadvances in science in the past 10 years or so,parallel to the brain imaging studies. Themolecular studies, explored in the context ofevolutionary psychology and behavioral geneticsprovide a new model for human development,enhancing our understanding of more traditionalviews of human phylogeny and ontogeny. Thesame molecular studies, when framed in thecontext of twin, adoption and longitudinalstudies, provide new insights for parenting,schools, community and therapy. (shrink)
Evidence accumulates that pre- and postnatally circulating estrogens play an active role in the differentiation of the female brain: the susceptible period for feminization of the brain seems to extend far beyond the period during which masculinization of the brain occurs. Thus, there is a need to reevaluate the widely accepted “concept of basic femaleness” in sexual brain differentiation.
We briefly review the long-standing ideas about the use of synchronicity in the brain, which rely on Donald Hebb's views on cell assemblies and synaptic plasticity. More recently the distinction among several timescales in the description of neural activity has become a focus of theoretical discussion. Phillips & Singer's target article is criticized mainly because it does not distinguish these timescales properly and hence does not really address the questions so intensely debated today.
Shepard's concept of internalization does not suggest mechanisms which help to understand how the brain adapts to changes, how representations of a steadily changing environment are updated or, in short, how brain learning continues throughout life. Neural mechanisms, as suggested by Barlow, may prove a more powerful alternative. Brain theories such as Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) propose mechanisms to explain how representational activities may be linked in space and time. Some predictions of ART are confirmed by psychophysical (...) and neurophysiological data. [Barlow; Shepard]. (shrink)
True, there may be two language-processing systems, lexicon and syntax. However, could we not say more than that they are computationally and linguistically distinct? Where are they in the brain, why are they where they are, and how can their distinctness and functional properties be explained by biological principles? A brain model of language is necessary to answer these questions. One view is that two different types of corticocortical connections are most important for storing rules and their exceptions: (...) short-range connections within the perisylvian language cortex and long-range connections between this region and other areas. Probabilities of neuroanatomical connections plus associative learning principles explain why different connection bundles specialize in rule storage versus exception learning. Linguistic issues related to language change and plural formation in German are addressed in closing. (shrink)
Brain activity data prove the existence of qualitatively different structures in the brain. However, the question is whether the human brain acts as linguists assume in their models. The modular architecture of grammar that has been claimed by many linguists raises some empirical questions. One of the main questions is whether the threefold abstract partition of language (into syntactic, phonological, and semantic domains) has distinct neural correlates.
Neural organization describes an approach to analyzing neural function in anatomically defined subsystems in the brain, the hippocampus, cerebellum, sensory systems, thalamus, basal ganglia, and cerebral cortex, combining information on neurocircuitry with mathematical models that link structure with function. It is an up-to-date source on the major schemes and background for neural modeling of the central nervous system and is combined with a Web site that includes tutorials and on-line modeling possibilities.
The heated debate over whether there is only a single mechanism or two mechanisms for morphology has diverted valuable research energy away from the more critical questions about the neural computations involved in the comprehension and production of morphologically complex forms. Cognitive neuroscience data implicate many brain areas. All extant models, whether they rely on a connectionist network or espouse two mechanisms, are too underspecified to explain why more than a few brain areas differ in their activity during (...) the processing of regular and irregular forms. No one doubts that the brain treats regular and irregular words differently, but brain data indicate that a simplistic account will not do. It is time for us to search for the critical factors free from theoretical blinders. (shrink)
If the cortex is an associative memory, strongly connected cell assemblies will form when neurons in different cortical areas are frequently active at the same time. The cortical distributions of these assemblies must be a consequence of where in the cortex correlated neuronal activity occurred during learning. An assembly can be considered a functional unit exhibiting activity states such as full activation (“ignition”) after appropriate sensory stimulation (possibly related to perception) and continuous reverberation of excitation within the assembly (a putative (...) memory process). This has implications for cortical topographies and activity dynamics of cell assemblies forming during language acquisition, in particular for those representing words. Cortical topographies of assemblies should be related to aspects of the meaning of the words they represent, and physiological signs of cell assembly ignition should be followed by possible indicators of reverberation. The following postulates are discussed in detail: (1) assemblies representing phonological word forms are strongly lateralized and distributed over perisylvian cortices; (2) assemblies representing highly abstract words such as grammatical function words are also strongly lateralized and restricted to these perisylvian regions; (3) assemblies representing concrete content words include additional neurons in both hemispheres; (4) assemblies representing words referring to visual stimuli include neurons in visual cortices; and (5) assemblies representing words referring to actions include neurons in motor cortices. Two main sources of evidence are used to evaluate these proposals: (a) imaging studies focusing on localizing word processing in the brain, based on stimulus-triggered event-related potentials (ERPs), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and (b) studies of the temporal dynamics of fast activity changes in the brain, as revealed by high-frequency responses recorded in the electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalogram (MEG). These data provide evidence for processing differences between words and matched meaningless pseudowords, and between word classes, such as concrete content and abstract function words, and words evoking visual or motor associations. There is evidence for early word class-specific spreading of neuronal activity and for equally specific high-frequency responses occurring later. These results support a neurobiological model of language in the Hebbian tradition. Competing large-scale neuronal theories of language are discussed in light of the data summarized. Neurobiological perspectives on the problem of serial order of words in syntactic strings are considered in closing. Key Words: associative learning; cell assembly; cognition; cortex; ERP; EEG; fMRI; language; lexicon; MEG; PET; word category. (shrink)
Norris, McQueen & Cutler argue that there is no need for feedback in word recognition. Given the accumulating evidence in favor of feedback as a general mechanism in the brain, I will question the utility of a model that is at odds with such a general principle. Correspondence:a2 Laboratoire de Neurosciences Intégratives et Adaptatives, Université de Provence, 13397 Marseille, cedex 13, France.
_Behavioral and Brain Sciences_ , 15, 183-247, 1992. Reprinted in _The Philosopher's Annual_ , Grim, Mar and Williams, eds., vol. XV-1992, 1994, pp. 23-68; Noel Sheehy and Tony Chapman, eds., _Cognitive Science_ , Vol. I, Elgar, 1995, pp.210-274.
Damasio remarks, it "informs virtually all research on mind and brain, explicitly or implicitly." Indeed, serial information processing models generally run this risk (Kinsbourne, 1985). The commentaries provide a wealth of confirming instances of the seductive power of this idea. Our sternest critics Block, Farah, Libet, and Treisman) adopt fairly standard Cartesian positions; more interesting are those commentators who take themselves to be mainly in agreement with us, but who express reservations or offer support with arguments that betray a (...) continuing allegiance to one or another tenet of the view we sought to discredit. (shrink)
Sleep researchers in different disciplines disagree about how fully dreaming can be explained in terms of brain physiology. Debate has focused on whether REM sleep dreaming is qualitatively different from nonREM (NREM) sleep and waking. A review of psychophysiological studies shows clear quantitative differences between REM and NREM mentation and between REM and waking mentation. Recent neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies also differentiate REM, NREM, and waking in features with phenomenological implications. Both evidence and theory suggest that there are isomorphisms (...) between the phenomenology and the physiology of dreams. We present a three-dimensional model with specific examples from normally and abnormally changing conscious states. Key Words: consciousness; dreaming; neuroimaging; neuromodulation; NREM; phenomenology; qualia; REM; sleep. (shrink)
Brain opioids regulate social emotions in several distinct ways. The abundance of neuroscientific detail in the target article helps familiarize the uninitiated with the true and humbling complexities of mammalian brains, but little of it translates to research strategies, with robust predictions, at the human level. Only global neurochemical affective state variables derived from animal research have clear implications for human research.
ABSTRACT: Simon Baron-Cohen has argued that autism and related developmental disorders (sometimes called “autism spectrum conditions” or “autism spectrum disorders”) can be usefully thought of as the condition of possessing an “extreme male brain.” The impetus for regarding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) this way has been the accepted science regarding the etiology of autism, as developed over that past several decades. Three important features of this etiology ground the Extreme Male Brain theory. First, ASD is disproportionately male (approximately (...) 10:1 in the case of Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism (HFA) and approximately 4:1 in the case of autistic disorder). Second, ASD is not psychogenic but biological in origin, and hence is not the product of sexist conditioning or childrearing practices, although these may affect the development of the disorder. Third, ASD is regarded as a spectrum developmental disorder, unlike other disorders such as Down Syndrome that are diagnosed by a (nearly) binary criterion. Down Syndrome, for example, is diagnosed by the presence in all or most cells within a given individual of an extra copy of Chromosome 21. Autism, on the other hand, is diagnosed by the presence of a set of symptoms that vary in their intensity and in their milder forms seem to conform to purported sex differences in cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. -/- In this paper, I do not challenge accepted science regarding the etiology of autism, and I do not challenge the idea of ASD as a disorder. Nor do I wish to offer an alternative account of what autism is. Instead, I focus on the usefulness of thinking of a disorder as an extreme version of ordinary sex differences. Does it follow from the fact that a disorder is more often found in men that we should think of it as an extreme form of maleness? If not, what other conditions must be met in order to warrant this way of thinking about ASD? What does it mean to say that ASD is a form of “extreme male brain”? Feminists are rightly skeptical of theories that make claims about male and female brains, so how should we respond to the clear evidence that the differences between typical and ASD individuals are not caused by childrearing practices? I explain what I take to be Baron-Cohen’s central argument that autism should be seen as the extreme male brain, and critique that argument. I conclude that there is no good argument that autistic symptoms should be regarded as an extreme form of male mental traits, and that Baron-Cohen’s claim does not help us to understand autism, women, or men. His claim is a speculative thesis that is readily mobilized for sexist practices. As such it requires a higher threshold for evidentiary support and rigorous argumentation—support and argumentation that does not exist. -/- KEYWORDS: autism, brain, gender, neuroscience, feminism, male . (shrink)
There are many advantages to defining emotions as states elicited by reinforcers, with the states having a set of different functions. This approach leads towards an understanding of the nature of emotion, of its evolutionary adaptive value, and of many principles of brain design. It also leads towards a foundation for many of the processes that underlie evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology. It is shown that recent as well as previous evidence implicates the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex in positive (...) as well as negative emotions. The issue of why emotional states feel like something is part of the much larger problem of phenomenal consciousness. It is argued that thinking about one's own thoughts would have adaptive value by enabling first order linguistic thoughts to be corrected. It is suggested that reflecting on and correcting one's own thoughts and plans would feel like something, and that phenomenal consciousness may occur when this type of monitoring process is taking place. (shrink)
The aim of cognitive neuropsychology is to articulate the functional architecture underlying normal cognition, on the basis of congnitive performance data involving brain-damaged subjects. Throughout the history of the subject, questions have been raised as to whether the methods of neuropsychology are adequate to its goals. The question has been reopened by Glymour , who formulates a discovery problem for cognitive neuropsychology, in the sense of formal learning theory, concerning the existence of a reliable methodology. It appears that the (...) discovery problem may be insoluble in principle! I propose a modified formulation of Glymour's discovery problem and argue that a sceptical conclusion about the possiblity of cognitive neuropsychology as an empirical science is not warranted. (shrink)
We clarify the arguments in Neural organization: Structure, function, and dynamics, acknowledge important contributions cited by our critics, and respond to their criticisms by charting directions for further development of our integrated approach to theoretical and empirical studies of neural organization. We first discuss functional organization in general (behavior versus cognitive functioning, the need to study body and brain together, function in ontogeny and phylogeny) and then focus on schema theory (noting that schema theory is not just a top-down (...) theory and discussing the transition from action-oriented perception to cognition). We then turn to dynamical organization, with a focus first on neural modeling and dynamics (clarifying the multiple functions of neurons and brain regions, and looking further at various forms of dynamics) and second on learning, development, and self-organization (looking at monoaminergic systems, reinforcement, self-organization, postnatal development, and disease). We close with a brief philosophical discussion of postmodernism and reductionism. (shrink)
The advent of functional brain imaging has revolutionized the ability to understand the biological mechanisms underlying decision-making. Although it has been amply demonstrated that assumptions of rationality often break down in experimental games, there has not been an overarching theory of why this happens. I describe recent advances in functional brain imaging and suggest a framework for considering the function of the human reward system as a discrete agent.
Statistical regularities of the environment are important for learning, memory, intelligence, inductive inference, and in fact, for any area of cognitive science where an information-processing brain promotes survival by exploiting them. This has been recognised by many of those interested in cognitive function, starting with Helmholtz, Mach, and Pearson, and continuing through Craik, Tolman, Attneave, and Brunswik. In the current era, many of us have begun to show how neural mechanisms exploit the regular statistical properties of natural images. Shepard (...) proposed that the apparent trajectory of an object when seen successively at two positions results from internalising the rules of kinematic geometry, and although kinematic geometry is not statistical in nature, this is clearly a related idea. Here it is argued that Shepard's term, “internalisation,” is insufficient because it is also necessary to derive an advantage from the process. Having mechanisms selectively sensitive to the spatio-temporal patterns of excitation commonly experienced when viewing moving objects would facilitate the detection, interpolation, and extrapolation of such motions, and might explain the twisting motions that are experienced. Although Shepard's explanation in terms of Chasles' rule seems doubtful, his theory and experiments illustrate that local twisting motions are needed for the analysis of moving objects and provoke thoughts about how they might be detected. Key Words: Chasles' rule; evolution; geometry; perception; redundancy; statistics; twisting. (shrink)
Pulvermüller's attempt to link language with brain activity appears to depend on the assumption that words have context-independent meanings. An examination of everyday talk contradicts this assumption. The meaning that speakers convey depends not only on word content, but also, and importantly, on the location of a “word” in an ongoing sequence of turns in talk.
Merker's insightful broad review fertilely recasts the mind/brain issue, but the phenomenological appeals require additional considerations of behavioral and neural flexibility. Motor equivalences and perceptual constancies may be cortical contributions to a “robotic” tectal orientation mechanism. Intermediate “third layers” of associative neural networks, each with a few diffusely summing convergence-divergence modules, may be the economical expedient by which evolution has extended the limited unity-in-diversity of sensorimotor coordination to perception, action, thinking, and memory. (Published Online May 1 2007).
This commentary examines the implications of the Depue & Collins model for the etiology and treatment of depression, specifically, whether it can account for findings concerning neurobiological, behavioral, and phenomenological facets of depression. Drawing upon the construct of self-regulation, I explore the fit of the model to current knowledge about depression, conceptualized as a dysfunction within a hypothetical brain/behavior system for maximizing positive outcomes.
The Kalman filtering technique is considered as a part of concurrent data-processing techniques also related to detection, parameter evaluation, and identification. The adaptive properties of the filter are discussed as being related to symmetrical brain structures.
The general applicability of forward models in brain function has previously been recognized. Grush's contribution centers largely on broadening the extent and scope of forward models. However, in his effort to expand and generalize, important distinctions may have been overlooked. A better grounding in the underlying physiology would have helped to illuminate such valuable differences and similarities.
Concepts are the elementary units of reason and linguistic meaning. They are conventional and relatively stable. As such, they must somehow be the result of neural activity in the brain. The questions are: Where? and How? A common philosophical position is that all concepts—even concepts about action and perception—are symbolic and abstract, and therefore must be implemented outside the brain’s sensory-motor system. We will argue against this position using (1) neuroscientific evidence; (2) results from neural computation; and (3) (...) results about the nature of concepts from cognitive linguistics. We will propose that the sensory-motor system has the right kind of structure to characterise both sensory-motor and more abstract concepts. Central to this picture are the neural theory of language and the theory of cogs, according to which, brain structures in the sensory-motor regions are exploited to characterise the so-called “abstract” concepts that constitute the meanings of grammatical constructions and general inference patterns. (shrink)
The brain-in-a-vat argument for skepticism is best formulated, not using the closure principle, but using the "Preference Principle," which states that in order to be justified in believing H on the basis of E, one must have grounds for preferring H over each alternative explanation of E. When the argument is formulated this way, Dretske's and Klein's responses to it fail. However, the strengthened argument can be refuted using a direct realist account of perception. For the direct realist, refuting (...) the BIV scenario is not a precondition on knowledge of the external world, and only the direct realist can give a non-circular account of how we know we're not brains in vats. (shrink)
The brain is often taken to be a paradigmatic example of a signaling system with semantic and representational properties, in which neurons are senders and receivers of information carried in action potentials. A closer look at this picture shows that it is not as appealing as it might initially seem in explaining the function of the brain. Working from several sender-receiver models within the teleosemantic framework, I will first argue that two requirements must be met for a system (...) to support genuine semantic information: 1. The receiver must be competent —that is, it must be able to extract rewards from its environment on the basis of the signals that it receives. 2. The receiver must have some flexibility of response relative to the signal received. In the second part of the paper, this initial framework will be applied to neural processes, pointing to the surprising conclusion that signaling at the single-neuron level is only weakly semantic at best. Contrary to received views, neurons will have little or no access to semantic information (though their patterns of activity may carry plenty of quantitative, correlational information) about the world outside the organism. Genuine representation of the world requires an organism - level receiver of semantic information, to which any particular set of neurons makes only a small contribution. (shrink)
Brain death is accepted in most countries as death. The rationales to explain why brain death is death are surprisingly problematic. The standard rationale that in brain death there has been loss of integrative unity of the organism has been shown to be false, and a better rationale has not been clearly articulated. Recent expert defences of the brain death concept are examined in this paper, and are suggested to be inadequate. I argue that, ironically, these (...) defences demonstrate the lack of a defensible rationale for why brain death should be accepted as death itself. If brain death is death, a conceptual rationale for brain death being equivalent to death should be clarified, and this should be done urgently. (shrink)
_dualism_ (consciousness lies outside knowable science), _emergence_ (consciousness arises as a novel property from complex computational dynamics in the brain), and some form of _panpsychism_, _pan-protopsychism, or pan-experientialism_ (essential features or precursors of consciousness are fundamental components of reality which are accessed by brain processes). In addition to 1) the problem of subjective experience, other related enigmatic features of consciousness persist, defying technological and philosophical inroads. These include 2) the “binding problem”—how disparate brain activities give rise to (...) a unified sense of “self” or unified conscious content. Temporal synchrony—brain-wide coherence of neural membrane electrical activities—is often assumed to accomplish binding, but _what_ is being synchronized? What is being coherently bound? Another enigmatic feature is 3) the transition from pre-conscious processes to consciousness itself. Most neuroscientists agree that consciousness is the “tip of an iceberg”, that the vast majority of brain activities is. (shrink)
Conscious perception, like the sight of a coffee cup, seems to involve the brain identifying a stimulus. But conscious input activates more brain regions than are needed to identify coffee cups and faces. It spreads beyond sensory cortex to frontoparietal association areas, which do not serve stimulus identiﬁcation as such. What is the role of those regions? Parietal cortex support the ‘ﬁrst person perspective’ on the visual world, unconsciously framing the visual object stream. Some prefrontal areas select and (...) interpret conscious events for executive control. Such functions can be viewed as properties of the subject, rather than the object, of experience – the ‘observing self’ that appears to be needed to maintain the conscious state. (shrink)
Two very different insights motivate characterizing the brain as a computer. One depends on mathematical theory that defines computability in a highly abstract sense. Here the foundational idea is that of a Turing machine. Not an actual machine, the Turing machine is really a conceptual way of making the point that any well-defined function could be executed, step by step, according to simple 'if-you-are-in-state-P-and-have-input-Q-then-do-R' rules, given enough time (maybe infinite time) [see COMPUTATION]. Insofar as the brain is a (...) device whose input and output can be characterized in terms of some mathematical function -- however complicated -- then in that very abstract sense, it can be mimicked by a Turning machine. Given what is known so far brains do seem to depend on cause-effect operations, and hence brains appear to be, in some formal sense, equivalent to a Turing machine [see CHURCH-TURING THESIS]. On its own, however, this reveals nothing at all of how the mind-brain actually works. The second insight depends on looking at the brain as a biological device that processes information from the environment to build complex representations that enable the brain to make predictions and select advantageous behaviors. Where necessary to avoid ambiguity, we will refer to the first notion of computation as algorithmic computation, and the second as information processing computation. (shrink)
In recent times we have seen an explosion in the amount of attention paid to the conscious brain from scientists and philosophers alike. One message that has emerged loud and clear from scientific work is that the brain is a dynamical system whose operations unfold in time. Any theory of consciousness that is going to be physically realistic must take account of the intrinsic nature of neurons and brain activity. At the same time a long discussion on (...) consciousness among philosophers has resulted in our distinguishing several kinds of consciousness. So when we ask where the place of consciousness is in nature we may mean several different things. In this chapter I will argue that it is plausible that all of the kinds of consciousness turn out to be nothing but patterns of synchronized neural activity in various frequencies against a dynamically changing chemical background. (shrink)
Carl Craver’s recent book offers an account of the explanatory and theoretical structure of neuroscience. It depicts it as centered around the idea of achieving mechanistic understanding, i.e., obtaining knowledge of how a set of underlying components interacts to produce a given function of the brain. Its core account of mechanistic explanation and relevance is causal-manipulationist in spirit, and offers substantial insight into casual explanation in brain science and the associated notion of levels of explanation. However, the focus (...) on mechanistic explanation leaves some open questions regarding the role of computation and cognition. (shrink)
Benjamin Libet and also Libet and collaborators claim to advance a single hypothesis, with important consequences, about the time of a conscious experience in relation to the time when there occurs a certain physical condition in the brain. This condition is spoken of as
_adequacy_ for the experience, or, as we can as well say, _neural adequacy_ .5 This finding has been taken to throw doubt on theories that take neural and mental events to be in (...) necessary or lawlike connection, and also certain identity theories of mind and brain, as well as determinist theories. (shrink)
The mainstream rationale for equating brain death (BD) with death is that the brain confers integrative unity upon the body, transforming it from a mere collection of organs and tissues to an organism as a whole. In support of this conclusion, the impressive list of the brains myriad integrative functions is often cited. Upon closer examination, and after operational definition of terms, however, one discovers that most integrative functions of the brain are actually not somatically integrating, and, (...) conversely, most integrative functions of the body are not brain-mediated. With respect to organism-level vitality, the brains role is more modulatory than constitutive, enhancing the quality and survival potential of a presupposedly living organism. Integrative unity of a complex organism is an inherently nonlocalizable, holistic feature involving the mutual interaction among all the parts, not a top-down coordination imposed by one part upon a passive multiplicity of other parts. Loss of somatic integrative unity is not a physiologically tenable rationale for equating BD with death of the organism as a whole. (shrink)
_The concept of qualia describes the unique properties that_ _accompany our senses. It is an essential concept when we try to_ _understand the principle that bridges the neural firings in our_ _brain and our perception. The idea of qualia is also of crucial_ _importance when we try to study the functions of the brain from_ _an objective point of view. Qualia must be part of the_ _mathematical formulation of information we use to understand_ _the function of (...) the brain._. (shrink)
As if that weren't enough of a puzzle, the more biologically frivolous and vain the activity, the more people exalt it. Art, literature, and music are thought to be not just pleasurable but noble. They are the mind's best work, what makes life worth living. Why do we pursue the biologically trivial and futile and experience them as sublime? To many educated people the question seems horribly philistine, even immoral. But it is unavoidable for anyone interested in the makeup of (...) [Homo sapiens]. Members of our species do mad deeds like living for their art and (in India) selling their blood to buy movie tickets. Why? How might we understand the psychology of the arts within the modern understanding of the brain as a biological organ shaped by the forces of evolution? (shrink)
Not long ago, I received an email from a man who had been trying to get his seven-year-old son interested in science, and teach him a little bit about the workings of the brain. He had been showing his son one of those diagrams of a brain with various regions labeled as "speech center," vision center," and the like (something similar to this, I suppose), when the little boy suddenly asked, "Daddy, which part of the brain does (...) imagination come from?". It was not on the diagram, and the father, although he studied human biology at college, realized he did not know the answer. As we do these days, he got on the internet to try to find out. It was not as easy as he might have expected. "Imagination" is certainly a word that is found on a lot of web pages, and there are plenty that seem to be devoted to celebrating or promoting it, but very few of them seem to have anything at all to say about what it is, how it works, or where in the brain it might be implemented. Eventually, he found his way to this site. Even here, however, he could find no straightforward answer to his son's apparently straightforward question. (The truth is, the question is not nearly as straightforward as it appears.) He thought I might be a good a person to ask, however, and sent me an email. What follows is a lightly revised version of the reply I sent. It is not written in terms that a seven-year-old could understand (I am not clever enough to do that), but neither is it pitched at the professional, academic level of most of the material on this site. I would like to think that it answers the question (inasmuch as it can be answered in the current state of scientific knowledge) in a way that a layperson should be able to understand, and that they might then be able to explain to a curious and intelligent child. If you want to know the detailed reasons, and see the citations to the scientific literature, that justify the claims made here, you can find them in the other articles on this site.. (shrink)
This essay introduces the massive redeployment hypothesis, an account of the functional organization of the brain that centrally features the fact that brain areas are typically employed to support numerous functions. The central contribution of the essay is to outline a middle course between strict localization on the one hand, and holism on the other, in such a way as to account for the supporting data on both sides of the argument. The massive redeployment hypothesis is supported by (...) case studies of redeployment, and compared and contrasted with other theories of the localization of function. (shrink)
We contrast reactive and endogenously active perspectives on brain activity. Both have been pursued continuously in neurophysiology laboratories since the early 20thcentury, but the endogenous perspective has received relatively little attention until recently. One of the many successes of the reactive perspective was the identification, in the second half of the 20th century, of the distinctive contributions of different brain regions involved in visual processing. The recent prominence of the endogenous perspective is due to new findings of ongoing (...) oscillatory activity in the brain at a wide range of time scales, exploiting such techniques as single-cell recording, EEG, and fMRI. We recount some of the evidence pointing to ways in which this endogenous activity is relevant to cognition and behavior. Our major objective is to consider certain implications of the contrast between the reactive and endogenous perspectives. In particular, we relate these perspectives to two different characterizations of explanation in the new mechanistic philosophy of science. In a basic mechanistic explanation, the operations of a mechanism are characterized qualitatively and as functioning sequentially until a terminating condition is realized. In contrast, a dynamic mechanistic explanation allows for non-sequential organization and emphasizes quantitative modeling of the mechanisms's behavior. For example, with appropriate parameter values a set of differential equations can be used to demonstrate ongoing oscillations in a system organized with feedback loops. We conclude that the basic conception of mechanistic explanation is adequate for reactive accounts of brain activity, but dynamical accounts are required to explain sustained, endogenous activity. (shrink)
The view that the brain is a sort of computer has functioned as a theoretical guideline both in cognitive science and, more recently, in neuroscience. But since we can view every physical system as a computer, it has been less than clear what this view amounts to. By considering in some detail a seminal study in computational neuroscience, I first suggest that neuroscientists invoke the computational outlook to explain regularities that are formulated in terms of the information content of (...) electrical signals. I then indicate why computational theories have explanatory force with respect to these regularities:in a nutshell, they underscore correspondence relations between formal/mathematical properties of the electrical signals and formal/mathematical properties of the represented objects. I finally link my proposal to the philosophical thesis that content plays an essential role in computational taxonomy. (shrink)
If one formulates Helmholtz's ideas about perception in terms of modern-day theories one arrives at a model of perceptual inference and learning that can explain a remarkable range of neurobiological facts. Using constructs from statistical physics it can be shown that the problems of inferring what cause our sensory inputs and learning causal regularities in the sensorium can be resolved using exactly the same principles. Furthermore, inference and learning can proceed in a biologically plausible fashion. The ensuing scheme rests on (...) Empirical Bayes and hierarchical models of how sensory information is generated. The use of hierarchical models enables the brain to construct prior expectations in a dynamic and context-sensitive fashion. This scheme provides a principled way to understand many aspects of the brain's organisation and responses. In this paper, we suggest that these perceptual processes are just one emergent property of systems that conform to a free-energy principle. The free-energy considered here represents a bound on the surprise inherent in any exchange with the environment, under expectations encoded by its state or configuration. A system can minimise free-energy by changing its configuration to change the way it samples the environment, or to change its expectations. These changes correspond to action and perception, respectively, and lead to an adaptive exchange with the environment that is characteristic of biological systems. This treatment implies that the system's state and structure encode an implicit and probabilistic model of the environment. We will look at models entailed by the brain and how minimisation of free-energy can explain its dynamics and structure. (shrink)
Dualist and Reductionist theories of mind disagree about whether or not consciousness can be reduced to a state of or function of the brain. They assume, however, that the contents of consciousness are separate from the external physical world as-perceived. According to the present paper this assumption has no foundation either in everyday experience or in science. Drawing on evidence for perceptual projection in both interoceptive and exteroceptive sense modalities, the case is made that the physical world as-perceived is (...) a construct of perceptual processing and, therefore, part of the contents of consciousness. A finding which requires a Reflexive rather than a Dualist or Reductionist model of how consciousness relates to the brain and the physical world. The physical world as-perceived may, in turn be thought of as a biologically useful model of the world as described by physics. Redrawing the boundaries of consciousness to include the physical world as-perceived undermines the conventional separation of the 'mental' from the physical', and with it the very foundation of the Dualist-Reductionist debate. The alternative Reflexive model departs radically from current conventions, with consequences for many aspects of consciousness theory and research. Some of the consequences which bear on the internal consistency and intuitive plausibility of the model are explored, e.g. the causal sequence in perception, representationalism, a suggested resolution of the Realism versus Idealism debate, and the way manifest differences between physical events as-perceived and other conscious events (images, dreams, etc.) are to be construed. In the present paper I wish to challenge some of our most deeply-rooted assumptions about what consciousness is, by re-examining how consciousness, the human brain, and the surrounding physical world relate to each other. (shrink)
Alan Shewmons article, The brain and somatic integration: Insights into the standard biological rationale for equating brain death with death (2001), strikes at the heart of the standard justification for whole brain death criteria. The standard justification, which I call the standard paradigm, holds that the permanent loss of the functions of the entire brain marks the end of the integrative unity of the body. In my response to Shewmons article, I first offer a brief summary (...) of the standard paradigm and cite recent work by advocates of whole brain criteria who tenaciously cling to the standard paradigm despite increasing evidence showing that it has significant weaknesses. Second, I address Shewmons case against the standard paradigm, arguing that he is successful in showing that whole brain dead patients have integrated organic unity. Finally, I discuss some minor problems with Shewmons article, along with suggestions for further elaboration. (shrink)
It is a commonplace of contemporary thought that the mind is located in the brain. Although there have been some challenges to this view, it has remained mainstream outside of a few specialized discussions, and plays a prominent role in a wide variety of philosophical arguments. It is further assumed that the source of this view is empirical. I argue it is not. Empirical discoveries show conclusively that the brain is the central organ of mental life, but do (...) not show that it is the mind's location . The data are just as compatible with a view where mentality is a human capacity on the model of circulation or respiration, with the brain playing the same kind of role as the heart or lungs. The standard conception of the brain as the locus of mind stems, I claim, from the imposition of a Cartesian conception of the self on a materialist ontology. Recognizing that the empirical data do not justify such a move casts doubt on the foundations of a number of philosophical discussions and raises new questions about the nature of the psychological subject. (shrink)
Many faces of consciousness -- Ethics, religion, and the identity of self -- States of mind -- Why hearts don't love and brains don't pump -- EEG : a window on the mind -- Dynamic patterns as shadows of thought -- Networks, waves, and resonant binding -- The limits of science : What do we really know? -- Modern physics, cosmology, and consciousness -- The weird behavior of quantum systems -- Ontological interpretations of quantum mechanics -- Does the brain (...) create the mind? (shrink)
Oversimplified conceptions of cognitive neuroscience regard the goal of this discipline as the localization of previously discovered and validated cognitive processes. Research however is showing how brain data goes far beyond this translation role, as it can be used to help in explaining human cognition. Knowing about the brain is useful in building and redefining taxonomies of the mind and also in describing the mechanisms by which cognitive phenomena proceed. The present paper takes the cognitive system of attention (...) as a model research field to exemplify how biological knowledge can be used to advance the psychological theories explaining mental phenomena. (shrink)
The article deals with the following: (1) Three brain imaging studies on athletes are evaluated. What do these neuroscientific studies tell us about the brain and mind of the athlete? (2) Empirical investigations will need a neuro-theory of mind if they are to make the leap from neural activity to the mental. The article looks at such a theory, Gerald Edelman's ?Neural Darwinism?. What are the implications of such a theory for sport science and philosophy of sport? (3) (...) The article appreciates some of the neurosciences applications, but questions the hope of giving a complete theory of mind. (shrink)
The popularization of neuroscientific ideas about learning—sometimes legitimate, sometimes merely commercial—poses a real challenge for classroom teachers who want to understand how children learn. Until teacher preparation programs are reconceived to incorporate relevant research from the neuro- and cognitive sciences, teachers need translation and guidance to effectively use information about the brain and cognition. Absent such guidance, teachers, schools, and school districts may waste time and money pursuing so called brain-based interventions that lack a firm basis in research. (...) Meanwhile, the success of our schools will continue to be narrowly defined by achievement standards that ignore knowledge of the neural and cognitive processes of learning. To achieve the goals of neuroeducation, its proponents must address unique ethical issues that neuroeducation raises for five different groups of individuals: a) practicing teachers, b) neuroscience researchers whose work could inform education, c) publishers and the popular media, d) educational policy-makers, and e) university-level teacher educators. We suggest ways in which these ethical challenges can be met and provide a model for teacher preparation that will enable teachers themselves to translate findings from the neuro-and cognitive sciences and use legitimate research to inform how they design and deliver effective instruction. (shrink)
This paper lays out some of the empirical evidence for the importance of neural reuse—the reuse of existing (inherited and/or early-developing) neural circuitry for multiple behavioral purposes—in defining the overall functional structure of the brain. We then discuss in some detail one particular instance of such reuse: the involvement of a local neural circuit in finger awareness, number representation, and other diverse functions. Finally, we consider whether and how the notion of a developmental homology can help us understand the (...) relationships between the cognitive functions that develop out of shared neural supports. (shrink)
An emerging class of theories concerning the functional structure of the brain takes the reuse of neural circuitry for various cognitive purposes to be a central organizational principle. According to these theories, it is quite common for neural circuits established for one purpose to be exapted (exploited, recycled, redeployed) during evolution or normal development, and be put to different uses, often without losing their original functions. Neural reuse theories thus differ from the usual understanding of the role of neural (...) plasticity (which is, after all, a kind of reuse) in brain organization along the following lines: According to neural reuse, circuits can continue to acquire new uses after an initial or original function is established; the acquisition of new uses need not involve unusual circumstances such as injury or loss of established function; and the acquisition of a new use need not involve (much) local change to circuit structure (e.g., it might involve only the establishment of functional connections to new neural partners). Thus, neural reuse theories offer a distinct perspective on several topics of general interest, such as: the evolution and development of the brain, including (for instance) the evolutionary-developmental pathway supporting primate tool use and human language; the degree of modularity in brain organization; the degree of localization of cognitive function; and the cortical parcellation problem and the prospects (and proper methods to employ) for function to structure mapping. The idea also has some practical implications in the areas of rehabilitative medicine and machine interface design. (shrink)
Even if all of the content of conscious experience is encoded in the brain, there is a considerable difference between the view that consciousness does independent processing and the view that it does not. If all processing is done by the brain, then conscious experience is unnecessary and irrelevant to behavior. If consciousness performs a function, then its association with particular aspects of brain processing reflect its functional use in determining behavior. However, if consciousness does perform a (...) function, it cannot be described entirely by known physical laws. Rather, even if the content of conscious experience follows physical encoding in the brain, consciousness must then be governed in part by a principle which is different from any known physical principle. (shrink)
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)
Badcock and Crespi have advanced the hypothesis that autism and schizophrenia are caused by imbalanced imprinting in the brain. They argue that an imbalance between the effects of paternally and maternally expressed genes on brain development results in either an extreme paternal (autism) or maternal brain (schizophrenia). In this paper their conceptual model is discussed and criticized since it presupposes an incoherent distinction between observable physical and hidden mental phenomena. An alternative model is discussed that may be (...) more fruitful for investigating the possible role of imprinted genes in the development of social behaviour. The development of crying and reactive crying and behaviours necessary for collaborative action are discussed as a promising research area for understanding the effects of imprinted genes. (shrink)
This essay examines the relationship between metabolic brain processes and psycho-physiological activities or mental activity. It is argued that metabolic brain processes, including those involved in the production of energy, proteins and other molecules are restorative and conditional, rather than directly involved in mental activities. This stance suggests that life-time acquired learning and memory is precipitated as a permanent and personal configuration of the brain, that is in principle accessible to neurophysiological examination. Current neuroscience largely ignores implicitly (...) or explicitly the search for new emergent configurations of the brain. (shrink)
Purpose With the increasing sophistication of neuroimaging technologies in medicine, new language is being sought to make sense of the findings. The aim of this paper is to explore whether the brain-reading metaphor used to convey current medical or neurobiological findings imports unintended significations that do not necessarily reflect the genuine findings made by physicians and neuroscientists. Methods First, the paper surveys the ambiguities of the readability metaphor, drawing from the history of science and medicine, paying special attention to (...) the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Next, the paper addresses more closely the issue of how metaphors may be confusing when used in medicine in general, and neuroscience in particular. The paper then explores the possible misleading effects associated with the contemporary use of the brain-reading metaphor in neuroimaging research. Results Rather than breaking new ground, what we see in current scientific language is a persistence of both a constraining and expansive set of language practices forming a relatively continuous tradition linking current neuroimaging to past scientific investigations into the brain. Conclusions The use of the readability metaphor thus carries with it both positive and negative effects. Physicians and neuroscientists must resort to the use of terms already laden with abstracted meanings, and often burdened by tradition, at the risk of importing through these words connotations that do not tally with the sought-after objectivity of empirical science. (shrink)
Among the most important questions still facing human enquiry are those about the mind and its place in nature. What is mind, and what is it relation to body? How should we best understand our common sense concepts of such mental phenomena as belief, desire, intention, emotion, reason and memory? How does the grey matter of the brain give rise to our rich and vivid experiences of colour, sound, texture, taste and smell?
The whole brain-death criterion of death now enjoys a wide acceptance both within the medical profession and among the general public. That acceptance is in large part the product of the contention that brain death is the proper criterion for even a conservative definition of death – the irreversible loss of the integrated functioning of the organism as a whole. This claim – most recently made in the report of the Presidential Commission and in a comprehensive article by (...) James Bernat and others – is based upon a series of fallacious arguments. Chief among these is the argument that whole brain-death is the proper criterion for the conservative definition because the brain is the organ that integrates the rest of the organism. A central part of the paper shows that this argument rests upon a confusion between a function and the mechanism that performs it, and replies to the defenses that the Presidential Commission makes on this point. The concluding portion of the paper argues that this issue is not merely of academic interest, but has the potential for undermining the present consensus that supports the use of whole brain-death criteria. * Keywords: brain-death, definition of death, determination of death * I would like to thank Howard Brody and Bruce Miller for helpful suggestions and criticisms. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)