Optogenetics, Pluralism, and Progress

Philosophy of Science 85 (00):1090-1101 (2018)
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Optogenetic techniques are described as “revolutionary” for the unprecedented causal control they allow neuroscientists to exert over neural activity in awake behaving animals. In this paper, I demonstrate by means of a case study that optogenetic techniques will only illuminate causal links between the brain and behavior to the extent that their error characteristics are known and, further, that determining these error characteristics requires comparison of optogenetic techniques with techniques having well known error characteristics and consideration of the broader neural and behavioral context in which the targets of optogenetic interventions are situated.

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Jacqueline Anne Sullivan
University of Western Ontario


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