What the Neocortex Does

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Sun Aug 6 15:44:19 EST 2000

Harry Erwin wrote:
> I'm beginning to suspect a primary function of the neocortex is the
> maintenance of a non-symbolic, dynamic model of the environment.

The function of the interneurons that comprise the neocortex, as of all
interneurons, is to elaborate sensory input by responding to particular
combinations of the neurons afferent upon them. When a neuron in the primary
visual cortex responds to a selection of afferent neurons in such a way that
we say it is responding to a directed line segment it is performing its
entire function. This is all it does. This is all any interneuron does.
Things seem to be more compicated in the motor cortex because these
interneurons are closer to the motor neurons, but it only seems to be so.
The neurons in the motor cortex only respond to the neurons afferent upon

That we can embroider their activity with words and speak of symbolic and
non-symbolic models means nothing to the neuron. If we keep our attention on
the brain, it should also mean nothing to us.

Those who speak of the soul (mind) can rightfully use words like "symbolic"
to describe activities that take place in the soul (mind). But this belongs
to religion, not science.


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