Philosophical Psychology 32 (3):301-331 (2019)

Abel Wajnerman Paz
Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Barsalou has recently argued against the strategy of identifying amodal neural representations by using their cross-modal responses (i.e., their responses to stimuli from different modalities). I agree that there are indeed modal structures that satisfy this “cross-modal response” criterion (CM), such as distributed and conjunctive modal representations. However, I argue that we can distinguish between modal and amodal structures by looking into differences in their cross-modal responses. A component of a distributed cell assembly can be considered unimodal because its responses to stimuli from a given modality are stable, whereas its responses to stimuli from any other modality are not (i.e., these are lost within a short time, plausibly as a result of cell assembly dynamics). In turn, conjunctive modal representations, such as superior colliculus cells in charge of sensory integration, are multimodal because they have a stable response to stimuli from different modalities. Finally, some prefrontal cells constitute amodal representations because they exhibit what has been called ‘adaptive coding’. This implies that their responses to stimuli from any given modality can be lost when the context and task conditions are modified. We cannot assign them a modality because they have no stable relation with any input type.
Keywords amodal representation  cross-modal responses  embodied cognition  grounded cognition  perceptual representation
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2018.1563677
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Grounded Cognition: Past, Present, and Future.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 2010 - Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (4):716-724.

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