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

mat mats_trash at
Mon Apr 22 05:47:46 EST 2002

"Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemore2 at> wrote in message news:<3cbf11cc$1_7 at>...
> > 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.

I do not think that making arbitrary distinctions between behaviours
is any way to understand the nervous system.  There is no reason to
suppose that particular behaviours map isomorpically to any particular
neural circuit.  Further, looking for the bit of the brain that makes
the animal do this would more than likely blind us to the bigger
> 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.

err in vision research, knowledge of image masking, binocular rivalry,
blindsight etc etc, which have all been the discoveries of 'cognitive'
scientists, are extremely useful.

> 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.

You are a behaviourist no?  There is more to it than behaviour. 

> 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!"

Partly yes.  I am not that interested in finding out wich exact part
of the brain mediates this little part of behaviour, because I don't
think such a research program will work.  I am personally more
interested in understanding how neural circuits give rise to more
complex electrical activity, and eventually what type of electrical
activity correlates with behaviour, thought, consciousness.

> 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.

lol.  you just gave a definition of behaviourism.  Very limited in
scope and possibility of discovering anything useful.  All I said in
the above comment was that many people keep on trying to assign higher
functions to cellular level structures such as receptors and other
molecules whereas I believe that is fallacy.  Higher function
(including behaviour) can only be comprehended in terms of the
emergent properties of networks and circuits.  What evolution has done
is provided the complexity for high degree of variety in these
emergent properties such tha we have complex behaviour, thought etc...

Its just as much word salad as yours of course, s id anything
specualtive.  But mine is much less obfuscatory! are you denying that
thought occurs?

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