Query: Dendritic Networks
Alan J. Robinson
robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
Thu Feb 15 11:46:19 EST 1996
On 13 Feb 1996 19:48:55 GMT,
Paul Bush <paul at phy.ucsf.edu > wrote:
>In article <3117860D.2781 at psy.ox.ac.uk>, "Simon R. Schultz" <simon.schultz at psy.ox.ac.uk> writes:
>|> There is room for specialisation in neuroscience, and there's plenty of room
>|> for those who specialise in theoretical analysis -- if these people (such as
>|> myself) spent 2/3 of every day running recordings, they simply wouldn't have
>|> time to develop their theoretical skills sufficiently.
>|> On the other hand, the physiology (and anatomy) *is* fundamental. Lets have no
>|> On the other hand, there isn't always an advantage to detailed (e.g.
>With 3 hands, you should be able to work 50% faster than anyone else...
The ever increasing specialization of science has ran slap bang up
against the strong desirability for scientists in the behavioral
and brain sciences to have a broad basis of understanding of recent
results throughout all those disciplines. Without this understanding,
the science is reduced to gathering large volumes of experimental
data without any overall theoretical or SYSTEMS framework.
The rules of scientific conduct make it close to impossible for an
individual scientist to achieve and sustain expertise in more than one
discipline or one approach at a time, but many scientists from both
inside and outside the behavioral and brain sciences appear to lack
even the most basic credentials in the core disciplines such as
neuroscience and psychology.
This relates to the problems associated with theoretical
physical-mathematical model building, which has been one of the most
important, and in some ways the most disastrous development in 20th
This type of model building, especially using a computer, is most
closely associated with John von Neumann, a strong contender
for the most powerful intellect of all time. It is therefore
surprising that von Neumann did not realize that almost all these
models exhibit chaotic behavior through numerical instability and
sensititivity to initial conditions, quite apart from the
approximations that have to be used (contrary to popular opinion,
physics is NOT an exact science.)
Can such models still be useful? yes! BUT YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT
TYPE OF RESULTS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR BEFORE YOU BUILD THE MODEL. This
is why it is so important that such models ONLY be built by those
who have some formal and practical background in the subject
discipline. A general scientific education coupled with a brief
literature survey is NOT a sufficient qualification for model
building or even making public statements about the brain and
What I find really surprising is that this rule is repeatedly violated
by some scientists at the world's most prestigious universities such
as Oxford and Harvard, who should know better and set an example to
the rest of the world.
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