Layman's question on the biology of Long-term memory.

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 18 13:47:47 EST 2002


> Glen: the notion of "higher cognitive function" is itself utterly flawed -
> you seem to hint at this.

Mat: Well, flawed maybe since psychologists seem to make aribtrary
distinctions between different 'functions' when I would regard it as a
whole. But I do think the notion of an emergent property of neural
circuits is valid


Glen: It is not "distinctions" that are the problem; the problem arises when
one makes distinctions for phenomena that are related, and fails to make
distinctions among unrelated phenomena. Just because something is an
"emergent property" does not mean that it, itself, does not have "parts."
But how are we to make distinctions among behavioral phenomena? You seem not
to recognize the problem, or you have a simplistic view of this issue. I get
the impression that you think studying the nervous system qua nervous system
contains the solution; it does not. One must first clearly delineate the
subject matter to be addressed (that is behavior) and describe its "parts."
Only then can one make any headway in understanding how the brain and
behavior are related.



> Glen: Exactly. But I believe the problem stems from a treatable illness:
all
> fields of scientific inquiry that are concerned with behavior, human or
> otherwise, has been sickened by psychology and its lopsided development.
It
> has elaborate theories, and a well developed set of experimental
techniques,
> but it has failed to employ analyses of its concepts. Notions like
> "cognitive maps," "stored memories," "brain langauge," etc. etc. etc. are
> not theories, nor are they the experimental protocols by which they are>
"measured." The are bad concepts, and a conceptual analysis reveals this. A
> good example of an area of psychology that is obsessed with conceptual
> analysis is the experimental analysis of behavior.

Mat: I agree that the more protracted and abstract notions in psychology
are not really of much use in neuroscience. However, cognitive
neuroscience is very valuable, especially in fields such as vision
research.

Glen: Needless to say, I disagree. Most of the advances in behavioral
neurobiology are due to advances in computers, recording techniques, new
highly specific compounds etc., and have nothing to do with cognitive
psychology.

Mat: You have to ask what function of the brain you are
investigating. Its all very well discerning the detailed functions of
neural tissue, but if you can't relate it to behaviour and
consciousness then it doesn't go far enough

Glen: ????? Perhaps you didn't read my post. It was all about the problem of
making contact between the brain and behavior. We cannot do this because of
most of psychology's pitifully ridiculous concepts. Knowledge of
neurobiology qua neurobiology tells one nothing about what concepts are
useful in the science of behavior, whose findings must be the proving ground
for neurobiological theories of behavior.

>
> Glen: Basically, I am in agreement. Again, though, I would argue that the
> phrase "higher cognitive function" is virtually worthless. Further,
although
> I am comfortable with the notion of "emergent properties" I am not sure
> about the accuracy or importance of statements like: "Instead, higher>
cognitive function is the emergent activity of the whole host of complex
> regulaory pathways that exist in the brain. What evolution has done is to
> increase the variety of interactions and changes that can occur in the
brain
> in reponse to the world, which has consequently allowed the development of
> more complex higher function." I think I'm sort of with the spirit of your
> comment, but I guess I would question the reference to "regulatory
> pathways." This brings to mind the brain's role in the function of
> maintaining the internal milieu (in ways that don't include behavior -
> otherwise we would already be talking about behavior) like
(non-behavioral)
> thermoregulation and so forth. But almost upon the emergence of anything
> that we might call a "brain" at all, it almost certainly had a role in
> regulating the organism's commerce with the environment. Anyway, I think
the
> thing that slightly bothers me about this statement, though, is its
> vagueness. I think this is born of your reaction to the conceptual morass
> that is psychology and the rejection of all but the most vague references
> (like "higher cognitive function"). What has to be discovered can be put
> succintly.........
>

Mat: I think you may have misunderstood me a little. When I use the phrase
'higher cognitive function' I am not trying to refer to psychological
notions more just the general conept of 'mind' 'consciousness'
'behaviour' etc..

GS: Sorry, I don't know what you are saying here. You sort of appear to be
saying that "higher cognitive function" is a useful term because all it
refers to is "mind," "consciousness," and "behavior!"



Mat: I do not think they can be detached.

Glen: Behavior, "mind," consciousness, and "higher cognitive functions?"

Mat: Further, when
I said 'regulatory pathways' I was not refering to anything such as
thermoregulation or neuroendocrinological axes. Instead, what I meant
was that evolution has delivered us with a highly complex set of
molecular interactions in the brain, that are not supposed to work in
any particular way, but have increased the subtlety and complexity of
our possible interactions with the world. A prime example are
neurotrasnmitter receptors. Neurotransmitters in and of themselves
can do very little, however evolution as produced a host of different
receptors which mediate their action. Further, each receptor often
has several slightly different variants. Thus what evolution has done
is continually expand the range of events that can happen within our
brain, the end result of which is to give rise to complex behaviour.

Glen: This strikes me as little more than word salad and obfuscation. It is
unfortunate that you chose to delete the last portion of my post which is an
example of a reasonably accurate, and relatively succinct description of
what we should be working on.

"mat" <mats_trash at hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:43525ce3.0204180200.2fe4f106 at posting.google.com...
> > Glen: the notion of "higher cognitive function" is itself utterly
flawed -
> > you seem to hint at this.
>
> Well, flawed maybe since psychologists seem to make aribtrary
> distinctions between different 'functions' when I would regard it as a
> whole.  But I do think the notion of an emergent property of neural
> circuits is valid
>
> > Glen: Exactly. But I believe the problem stems from a treatable illness:
all
> > fields of scientific inquiry that are concerned with behavior, human or
> > otherwise, has been sickened by psychology and its lopsided development.
It
> > has elaborate theories, and a well developed set of experimental
techniques,
> > but it has failed to employ analyses of its concepts. Notions like
> > "cognitive maps," "stored memories," "brain langauge," etc. etc. etc.
are
> > not theories, nor are they the experimental protocols by which they are
> > "measured." The are bad concepts, and a conceptual analysis reveals
this. A
> > good example of an area of psychology that is obsessed with conceptual
> > analysis is the experimental analysis of behavior.
>
> I agree that the more protracted and abstract notions in psychology
> are not really of much use in neuroscience.  However, cognitive
> neuroscience is very valuable, especially in fields such as vision
> research.  You have to ask what function of the brain you are
> investigating.  Its all very well discerning the detailed functions of
> neural tissue, but if you can't relate it to behaviour and
> consciousness then it doesn't go far enough
>
> >
> > Glen: Basically, I am in agreement. Again, though, I would argue that
the
> > phrase "higher cognitive function" is virtually worthless. Further,
although
> > I am comfortable with the notion of "emergent properties" I am not sure
> > about the accuracy or importance of statements like: "Instead, higher
> > cognitive function is the emergent activity of the whole host of complex
> > regulaory pathways that exist in the brain. What evolution has done is
to
> > increase the variety of interactions and changes that can occur in the
brain
> > in reponse to the world, which has consequently allowed the development
of
> > more complex higher function." I think I'm sort of with the spirit of
your
> > comment, but I guess I would question the reference to "regulatory
> > pathways." This brings to mind the brain's role in the function of
> > maintaining the internal milieu (in ways that don't include behavior -
> > otherwise we would already be talking about behavior) like
(non-behavioral)
> > thermoregulation and so forth. But almost upon the emergence of anything
> > that we might call a "brain" at all, it almost certainly had a role in
> > regulating the organism's commerce with the environment. Anyway, I think
the
> > thing that slightly bothers me about this statement, though, is its
> > vagueness. I think this is born of your reaction to the conceptual
morass
> > that is psychology and the rejection of all but the most vague
references
> > (like "higher cognitive function"). What has to be discovered can be put
> > succintly.........
> >
>
> I think you may have misunderstood me a little.  When I use the phrase
> 'higher cognitive function' I am not trying to refer to psychological
> notions more just the general conept of 'mind' 'consciousness'
> 'behaviour' etc..  I do not think they can be detached.  Further, when
> I said 'regulatory pathways' I was not refering to anything such as
> thermoregulation or neuroendocrinological axes. Instead, what I meant
> was that evolution has delivered us with a highly complex set of
> molecular interactions in the brain, that are not supposed to work in
> any particular way, but have increased the subtlety and complexity of
> our possible interactions with the world. A prime example are
> neurotrasnmitter receptors.  Neurotransmitters in and of themselves
> can do very little, however evolution as produced a host of different
> receptors which mediate their action.  Further, each receptor often
> has several slightly different variants.  Thus what evolution has done
> is continually expand the range of events that can happen within our
> brain, the end result of which is to give rise to complex behaviour.





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