Prediction and Topological Models in Neuroscience

In Fabrizio Calzavarini & Marco Viola (eds.), Neural Mechanisms: New challenges in the philosophy of neuroscience. Springer (forthcoming)
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In the last two decades, philosophy of neuroscience has predominantly focused on explanation. Indeed, it has been argued that mechanistic models are the standards of explanatory success in neuroscience over, among other things, topological models. However, explanatory power is only one virtue of a scientific model. Another is its predictive power. Unfortunately, the notion of prediction has received comparatively little attention in the philosophy of neuroscience, in part because predictions seem disconnected from interventions. In contrast, we argue that topological predictions can and do guide interventions in science, both inside and outside of neuroscience. Topological models allow researchers to predict many phenomena, including diseases, treatment outcomes, aging, and cognition, among others. Moreover, we argue that these predictions also offer strategies for useful interventions. Topology-based predictions play this role regardless of whether they do or can receive a mechanistic interpretation. We conclude by making a case for philosophers to focus on prediction in neuroscience in addition to explanation alone.
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First archival date: 2020-05-27
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