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CogOnt Seminar: V. Bergeron/J. Gomez-Lavin
October 19 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
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.
Vincent Bergeron (University of Ottawa), “Carving the Mind at its Homologous Joints”
In this talk, I provide an analysis of the notion of cognitive homology. In contrast with the well-known concept of structural homology in biology—defined as the same structure in different animals regardless of form and function—the proposed notion of cognitive homology captures the idea that the basic cognitive contribution of a given homologous brain structure tends to remain stable over long evolutionary time scales. I then argue that this notion provides a powerful conceptual tool for the study of cognition. Since a cognitive homology will often consist of an evolutionarily conserved relationship between a homologous brain structure and its basic cognitive contribution, such structure-function mappings can be conceived as basic building blocks of animal and human cognition. These basic building blocks, in turn, can be used to construct cognitive ontologies that are well suited to the cognitive neurosciences. To illustrate the usefulness of this approach, I review recent anatomical and functional studies which indicate that the fundamental contribution of Broca’s region to the higher control of action has been conserved throughout primate evolution.
Javier Gomez-Lavin (University of Pennsylvania), “Productive Pessimism and New Ontologies of Cognition”
The hope of an easy mapping of psychological function to neural structure has yielded to pessimism in the face of evidence demonstrating that no one region of the brain works in isolation. Focusing on the case study of working memory—our famed ability to keep information in mind—I show that there is no coherent mapping from this psychological construct to a univocal neural structure. The conspicuous lack of progress occasioned by privileging psychological constructs when crafting explanatory ontologies of cognition, forces us to entertain a productive pessimism about their guiding role and the project of mapping their neural realizers. Worries about the smooth mapping of fashionable psychological constructs to neural matter have shadowed the development of neuroscience, but what makes such caution productive? I argue that if we take seriously the possibility of mereological mismatches between agent-level, intuitive descriptions of cognition (e.g., attention, working memory, executive control) and their many, likely overlapping, neural realizers, we can begin to structure ontologies that respect the dynamic, noisy, and multifunctional operation of the brain. To put it in terms of working memory, there are many ways to keep something in mind.