[page 8 of wk 3 handout]

“To what extent can cognitive functions be localized in the brain?”

  • The general answer is likely to be a compromise (not necessarily boring), between extreme forms of localization (in which, as in sea slugs, every neuron in every individual has innately specified functions) and extreme forms of anti-localization (mass-action and equipotentiality).

  • The phantom-limb theory of Ramachandran and Hirstein (1998) suggestions an interaction between experience and aspects of a genetically specified body-image, both in terms of gradual changes with experience, and instantaneous 'unmasking' of previously hidden inter-relationships.

  • Results with the special cases of deafness and blindness again suggest an interaction between innately prepared specializations and experience.

  • On the whole the interactions take the form of changes in the details of localization, and effects of reciprocal influences of different brain levels or brain parts rather than in the reduction of the amount of localization per se.
A subsidiary question is "Will cognitive psychology be replaced by cortical physiology?"

There are many reasons for saying "No", including the necessity for behavioural methodologies (Savoy, 2001) and the likely existence of fairly general purpose, less localized, psychological mechanisms (Fodor, 1983; Savoy, 2001). However, the last paragraph of Albright, Kandel and Posner (2000) is as follows (with added bullet points) —

  • In the decade of the 1990s, cognitive neuroscience thrived by bringing together psychology and neurobiology.

  • We now have every reason to expect that the next decade will yield a similarly mature molecular biology of cognition, in which powerful molecular and genetic tools find their calling in the service of cognitive neuroscience, and that the field will continue to advance through

  • a global circuit-based approach to cognitive representation by the brain.

  • Although, as noted by Hebb 50 years ago, there still is "a long way to go before we can speak of understanding the principles of behavior to the degree that we understand the principles of chemical reaction", the time for that understanding is now — at least — in full view.

A few additional references (mostly to go with the main handout)

Bartels, A., & Zeki, S. (2004). The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love. Neuroimage, 21(3), 1155-1166.

Bird, C. M., Castelli, F., Malik, O., Frith, U., & Husain, M. (2004). The impact of extensive medial frontal lobe damage on 'Theory of Mind' and cognition. Brain, 127(4), 914-928.

Rizzolatti, G, Luppino, G and Matelli, M (1998) The organization of the cortical motor system: new concepts. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Vol.106, No.4, Pp.283-296

Rizzolatti, G., & Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, 169-192..

Rumelhart, D.E. and McClelland, J.L. (1986) PDP Models and General Issues in Cognitive Science. In Rumelhart, D.E. and McClelland, J.L. (eds) Parallel Distributed Processing. Volume 1. Foundations. London: MIT Press, 110-46

Willmes, K,and Poeck, K (1993) To what extent can aphasic syndromes be localized? Brain, Vol.116, No.6, pp.1527-1540.  

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