Monday, December 11, 2017

Neuroscience Needs Behavior, and literary behavior is among the richest there is

Not only that, but it leaves records of its unfolding in the form of texts. Our task is to "reverse engineer" the activity by analyzing the texts. Something more easily said than done. My most recent attempt: Calculating meaning in " Kubla Khan " – a rough cut (Version 2).

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 2017 Feb 8;93(3):480-490. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.12.041.

Neuroscience Needs Behavior: Correcting a Reductionist Bias.


There are ever more compelling tools available for neuroscience research, ranging from selective genetic targeting to optogenetic circuit control to mapping whole connectomes. These approaches are coupled with a deep-seated, often tacit, belief in the reductionist program for understanding the link between the brain and behavior. The aim of this program is causal explanation through neural manipulations that allow testing of necessity and sufficiency claims. We argue, however, that another equally important approach seeks an alternative form of understanding through careful theoretical and experimental decomposition of behavior. Specifically, the detailed analysis of tasks and of the behavior they elicit is best suited for discovering component processes and their underlying algorithms. In most cases, we argue that study of the neural implementation of behavior is best investigated after such behavioral work. Thus, we advocate a more pluralistic notion of neuroscience when it comes to the brain-behavior relationship: behavioral work provides understanding, whereas neural interventions test causality.

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In my 1978 dissertation, Cognitive Science and Literary Theory, I asserted that the project of cognitive science was to investigate a five-way correspondence between: 1) neuroanatomy (micro and macro), 2) behavior, 3) computation 4) ontogeny, and 5) phylogeny. Of course, that's not so much cognitive science as it is psychology, and I knew it at the time.


  1. "If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke ÑAy! and what then?"

    Her princes within her are roaring lion's

    Her judges are wolves at evening

    They leave nothing for the morning.

    qereb = within, inner, part, middle, inward part; physical sense, in the midst, among, from among (of a number of persons or entrails (of sacrificial animals)

    qerval/ qereb/ kerev/ kereb = the inward part of the body, considered the seat of laughter.

  2. First thought in about three months!

    Greek lion thing I remembered where it came from. Nous of lions.

    They will only attack the hunter who hurls the spear. Its not simply the physical strength of the lion that is to be admired but the working of its mind and its intelligence.

    "mick and paddy are walking through the jungle, when a lion comes charging towards them. Mick throws a rock and shouts, "quick Paddy run!"

    To which Mick replies "sure I'm not running it was you that threw the rock"

    An expert once stated that this form of language in its later medieval guise was 'not for students of ideas as the language is simple and unrelentingly heroic.

    Its like saying the old joke simply demonstrates the stupidity and mindlessness of the Irish.