Neuroscience in context: The new flagship of the cognitive sciences

Biological Theory 1 (1):78-83 (2006)
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Cognitive neuroscience has come to be viewed as the flagship of the cognitive sciences and is transforming our understanding of the nature of mind. In this paper we survey several research fields in cognitive neuroscience and note that they are making rapid progress on fundamental issues. Lateralization research is developing a comparative framework for evolutionary analysis, and is identifying individual- and population-level factors that favor brain asymmetries. Neuroeconomics is creating a research framework for studying valuation mechanisms in the brain that allows investigation of more complex phenomena than traditional reward paradigms. And cognitive control research has cast light on the mechanisms of task learning and top-down control that enable fluid goal-directed behavior in complex situations. Reasons for the success of cognitive neuroscience are varied: technical advances are part of the story, but the more important factors have to do with the power of integrating a bottom-up mechanistic approach with larger functional and evolutionary perspectives. The incorporation of a bottom-up component differentiates cognitive neuroscience from the multidisciplinary ambitions of classical cognitive science, which suffered from having limited access to mechanisms



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