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CogOnt Seminar: M. Anderson/P. Cisek
October 12 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Mike Anderson (Western University) & Paul Cisek (University of Montréal), Two Approaches to Reforming the Taxonomy of Cognitive Neuroscience
Part of our ongoing online seminar series. See the full list of talks here.
Register using this link: https://pitt.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_KMNKu4fmQ9Wh5ZjvXJ3qQA
Please note, registration will be for the entire seminar series.
In previous work (Anderson 2014; 2015) I have argued that the taxonomy of psychology (at least a neuroscientifically-relevant psychology) is in need of reform. This is for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that the taxonomy of cognitive neuroscience was borrowed wholesale from cognitive psychology, against which I have two main complaints: (1) it is explicitly rooted in a version of the computational theory of mind that is, I believe, demonstrably and deeply flawed and (2) it was formulated as an approach to the study of mind that would be autonomous from and unconstrained by the study of the brain. Both create problems for the project of understanding the neural underpinnings of cognition and behavior.
To pursue the hoped-for reforms, I have been an advocate for a data-driven approach wherein large collections of neuroimaging results, which give us information about the patterns of neural activation observed in different experimental contexts, can be subjected to various forms of mathematical analysis. The motivating idea is that analyzing the observed patterns might reveal similarities and differences in neural activation across different contexts that could indicate heretofore unnoticed similarities and differences in psychological constructs, and potentially lead to a reform of the constructs in question. Importantly, the new constructs would be explicitly constrained by, because partly derived from, neuroscientific investigation.
In the work mentioned above, I also raised the hope that additional insight into the best psychological categories might come from close attention to evolutionary biology.
This is a suggestion I did not myself pursue. However, in recent work Paul Cisek (2019) has taken up this challenge by developing an approach to building a neuroscientifically- grounded psychology he calls “phylogenetic refinement”. The idea here is to closely examine what we know about the phylogentic origins of behavioral control systems, and see how these control systems were developed, exapted, and reused in evolutionary descendants. For instance, the evolutionary novelties that emerged some 600 myo in cephalates included lateralized eyes and neural circuitry allowing for oriented approach and escape behaviors. These circuits are known to have been preserved in modern animals (e.g. mice), presumably exist in many other species, and may be used not just the capture of food and avoidance of predators, but also may have been exapted for more complex social behaviors. (It is not clear if the mechanism of exaptation involves literal reuse of the same circuits or instead the deployment of a homologous structure; this is one issue to be explored). The psychology that results from this sort of analysis would be centered around constructs like approach, escape, explore, exploit, and evaluate for which the (original) neural circuitry is known.
This talk will compare and contrast these two approaches, analyzing the promise and limitations of each.