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Neuroscience and
Cognitive Neuroscience
Keith J. Holyoak “Psychology in CS” (CD
MIT 1998)
• “Psychology = Science investigates
representation and processing of
information by complex organisms.”
• Psychology= “Information processing –
between sensory inputs and motoric
• Today: Psychology strong related to
Anatomy of the Brain
• Brain = Cerebral Cortex
• Has two symmetrical hemispheres
• Each hemisphere consists of large
sheets of layered neurons
• Human cortex: Highly folded to
pack more cortical surface into the
• Surface area of average
human cerebral cortex is about 2200
to 2400cmxcm
Fodor’s special sciences (1974)
• Relation between special sciences (psychology,
• Basic science: Physics
• Entities/processes from special sciences cannot
be defined/described using entities/processes
from basic science
• Psychology not reduced to neuroscience
• Each special science: distinctive “taxonomy”,
“distinctive ways of classifying and organizing
descriptions and explanations of phenomena”
• One taxonomy (proper to one special
science) – cannot be reduced to another
• Different particular sciences - Different
“levels of reality”: Physics - lowest level
Chemistry, biology, psychology, social
• Fodor rejects reductionism and implicitly
the Unity of Science
• The Student's Guide to Cognitive
Neuroscience by Jamie Ward
(2006 Psychology Press)
Cognitive neuroscience (CNS)
• CNS = A bridging discipline:
(1) Cognitive science + cognitive psychology
(2) Biology + neuroscience
A timeline - development of methods and findings relevant to CNS, from phrenology to
present day
Gall + Spurzheim (19th Century)- Phrenology:
2 assumptions:
(1) Different regions of brain perform different
functions + associated with different
(2) Size of these regions produces distortions of
skull + correlates with individual differences in
→ Functional specialization within brain
• Brain: 35 functions
• Task: Localization of specific mental
functions on neural areas
• Functions: Language, color perception,
face recognition, self, etc.
• 2 alternatives: atomistic or holistic
• Broca’s area: Patient could understand
language but not speak
• Patient’s left frontal lobe was damaged
• Wernicke (19th Century): A stroke victim –
could talk freely but with little sense
• Could not understand spoken or written
(“Brain story” by Vaia Lestou)
3D MRI of human brain with Broca's
area highlighted in red
3D MRI of human brain with Wernicke's
area highlighted in blue
• Brodmann: Cellular organization → 52
distinct regions
• Revolution in our understanding of the
nervous system: Camillo Golgi (Italy) and
Ramon y Cajal (Spain)
• Golgi: Impregnated individual neurons
• Cajal: Neurons are discrete entities transmit electrical information in only one
directions from dendrites to axonal tip
The methods of CNS
1. Neuroanatomy
2. Neurophysiology
3. Neurology
4. Functional Neurosurgery
5. Cognitive Psychology
6. Computer Modelling
7. Converging Methods
The brain story by Vaia Lestou
• Imaging the healthy brain
• Electrophysiological methods (EEG/ERP
and single-cell recordings) and
magnetophysiological methods (MEG)
record the electrical/magnetic properties of
• Functional imaging methods (PET and
fMRI) record physiological changes
associated with blood supply to the brain
which evolve more slowly over time.
These are called haemodynamic methods
Temporal resolution: Measure when an
event is occurring
• EEG, MEG, TMS and single-cell recording
= millisecond resolution
• PET and fMRI = minutes and seconds
Spatial resolution: Measure where an
event is occurring
• Lesion and functional imaging = millimetre
• Single-cell recordings = level of the neuron
(The Student's Guide to Cognitive
Neuroscience by Jamie Ward)
• “The goal of CNS: To explain how cognitive
processes emerge from neural activity”
• (Two methods: top-down or bottom-up)
Bottom-up: Knowledge from neurons + patterns
→ Cognitive processing
• 2 steps:
(1) Psychological theory (computational) that
explain cognition
(2) Looking for neural implementation
Kosslyn - Image representations
• “Lower” brain functions = Early perception +
motor control - Small neuronal areas
• Functions: Reasoning and problem solving =
“High-level” functions - Large neuronal areas
• Kosslyn: “Wet mind” = Explain cognitive
processes only by appealing (but not reducing)
to neurobiological data-information ↔
Combination between mind-information and
• Neural level: Difficult to grasp higher functions
Johnson’s book Developmental Cognitive
Neuroscience (1997) - “Representational
Change in Development”
Uttal (2001, 2002)
• Impossibility of explaining mind through
brain - Non-linearity of neural processes
• Psychological-neural equivalence –
necessary at a level much lower that today
(resolution of neuroimage mechanisms
deal with brain areas too large)
• Using lesions and image techniques, Uttal
considers that we cannot decompose a
cognitive system in components that can
be localized.
Bechtel (2002, 2008, 2009)
• “A [mental] mechanism is a structure
performing a function in virtue of its
components parts, component operations,
and their organization.
• The orchestrated functioning of the
mechanism is responsible for one or more
phenomena.” (Bechtel & Abrahamsen,
2005; Bechtel, 2006, 2009, 2008)
• “Heuristic identity theory”: “to date, over 30
areas involved in visual processing have
been found in primate brain” including not
only the occipital lobe, but also parietal
and temporal cortex. (2008)
• Localization: Revised during advancing
• Decomposability (phenomenal –memoryand mechanistic - vision) and localization
• Part-whole and the self
• Reduction and autonomy (“explanatory
pluralism” view)
Gualtiero Piccinini (2006)
• “[I]n the language of neurology …,
presumably, notions like computational
state and representation aren’t accessible”
(Fodor, 1998, p. 96). = ‘Computational
chauvinism’: Many neuroscientists - use
computation and representation “in
interpreting data, forming hypotheses, and
building models.
• Journals - Neural Computation, Journal of
Computational Neuroscience, and
Network: Computation in Neural Systems”
• Computational chauvinism’s:
Neuroscientists have to discover neural
mechanisms that implement computational
processes from psychological level →
Autonomy of psychology
• Piccinini - “Nature has been uncooperative
with this approach.” = There has been
impossible to discover implementation
• Neural networks are unable to help the
researchers to find such implementation
Hardcastle and Stewart (2002) vs. Bechtel
• They criticize modularity of mind (Fodor +
evolutionary psychology)
• “Cognitive neuroscientists assume that
they can localize brain function; they seek
discrete, physically constant brain
modules’ a material analogue for the
psychologists’ set of distinct mental
software packages.”
The main attack: No empirical data, no
theoretical framework!
(1) Localization and single cell recordings
(2) Lesion studies and the assumption of
brain constancy
(3) Functional imaging
None of these methods is sustainable in
proving the modularity of the mind
Jesse J. Prinz, (2006) “Is the mind really
• Critics of Fodor’s modularity of the mind
• Prinz attacked each property of modular
system: localization, automatization, fast,
shallow, ontogenetically determined,
domain specific, inaccessible, information
Chemero & Silbernstein
• Holistic and “explanatory pluralism” view
Vul et al (2009)
• 54 articles!
• “The correlations between behavioral and
self-report measures of personality or
emotion and measures of brain activation
obtained using fMRI”
• “These correlations often exceed what is
statistically possible assuming (evidently
rather limited) reliability of both fMRI and
personality/emotion measures.”
• Such correlations are “impossible high”
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