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  1. The Search of “Canonical” Explanations for the Cerebral Cortex.Alessio Plebe - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (3):40.
    This paper addresses a fundamental line of research in neuroscience: the identification of a putative neural processing core of the cerebral cortex, often claimed to be “canonical”. This “canonical” core would be shared by the entire cortex, and would explain why it is so powerful and diversified in tasks and functions, yet so uniform in architecture. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the search for canonical explanations over the past 40 years, discussing the theoretical frameworks informing this research. (...)
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  • A Contextualist Approach to Functional Localization in the Brain.Daniel Burnston - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):527-550.
    Functional localization has historically been one of the primary goals of neuroscience. There is still debate, however, about whether it is possible, and if so what kind of theories succeed at localization. I argue for a contextualist approach to localization. Most theorists assume that widespread contextual variability in function is fundamentally incompatible with functional decomposition in the brain, because contextualist accounts will fail to be generalizable and projectable. I argue that this assumption is misplaced. A properly articulated contextualism can ground (...)
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  • Computational Neuroscience and Localized Neural Function.Daniel Burnston - 2016 - Synthese 193 (12):3741-3762.
    In this paper I criticize a view of functional localization in neuroscience, which I call “computational absolutism”. “Absolutism” in general is the view that each part of the brain should be given a single, univocal function ascription. Traditional varieties of absolutism posit that each part of the brain processes a particular type of information and/or performs a specific task. These function attributions are currently beset by physiological evidence which seems to suggest that brain areas are multifunctional—that they process distinct information (...)
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  • The Future of Cognitive Neuroscience? Reverse Inference in Focus.Marco J. Nathan & Guillermo Del Pinal - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (7):e12427.
    This article presents and discusses one of the most prominent inferential strategies currently employed in cognitive neuropsychology, namely, reverse inference. Simply put, this is the practice of inferring, in the context of experimental tasks, the engagement of cognitive processes from locations or patterns of neural activation. This technique is notoriously controversial because, critics argue, it presupposes the problematic assumption that neural areas are functionally selective. We proceed as follows. We begin by introducing the basic structure of traditional “location-based” reverse inference (...)
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  • Getting Over Atomism: Functional Decomposition in Complex Neural Systems.Daniel C. Burnston - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:000-000.
    Functional decomposition is an important goal in the life sciences, and is central to mechanistic explanation and explanatory reduction. A growing literature in philosophy of science, however, has challenged decomposition-based notions of explanation. ‘Holists’ posit that complex systems exhibit context-sensitivity, dynamic interaction, and network dependence, and that these properties undermine decomposition. They then infer from the failure of decomposition to the failure of mechanistic explanation and reduction. I argue that complexity, so construed, is only incompatible with one notion of decomposition, (...)
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  • Beyond Cognitive Myopia: A Patchwork Approach to the Concept of Neural Function.Philipp Haueis - 2018 - Synthese 195 (12):5373-5402.
    In this paper, I argue that looking at the concept of neural function through the lens of cognition alone risks cognitive myopia: it leads neuroscientists to focus only on mechanisms with cognitive functions that process behaviorally relevant information when conceptualizing “neural function”. Cognitive myopia tempts researchers to neglect neural mechanisms with noncognitive functions which do not process behaviorally relevant information but maintain and repair neural and other systems of the body. Cognitive myopia similarly affects philosophy of neuroscience because scholars overlook (...)
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  • Data Mining the Brain to Decode the Mind.Daniel Weiskopf - forthcoming - In Neural Mechanisms: New Challenges in the Philosophy of Neuroscience.
    In recent years, neuroscience has begun to transform itself into a “big data” enterprise with the importation of computational and statistical techniques from machine learning and informatics. In addition to their translational applications such as brain-computer interfaces and early diagnosis of neuropathology, these tools promise to advance new solutions to longstanding theoretical quandaries. Here I critically assess whether these promises will pay off, focusing on the application of multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to the problem of reverse inference. I argue that (...)
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  • Brain Regions as Difference-Makers.Colin Klein - 2017 - Philosophical Psychology 30 (1-2):1-20.
    Contrastive neuroimaging is often taken to provide evidence about the localization of cognitive functions. After canvassing some problems with this approach, I offer an alternative: neuroimaging gives evidence about regions of the brain that bear difference-making relationships to psychological processes of interest. I distinguish between the specificity and what I call the systematicity of a difference-making relationship, and I show how at least some neuroimaging experiments can give evidence for systematic difference-making.
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