Questions on the Nature of memory, personality, etc.

Robert M?rtin robertmaertin at
Sun May 16 17:00:06 EST 2004

GS: Well..I don't know what you have in mind by "limitations." These
technologies are ok, but what is really troublesome is that
which areas are transiently more active when people or animals do
things (and defining what they ARE doing is an issue) doesn't get you
anywhere, really, at least not in isolation. The problem is that we
have a good idea how physiology mediates behavioral function. If you
collected fMRI data from now 'til doomsday, you still wouldn't know.

Okay. The problem about functional imaging techniques like fMRI or PET
is that they measure metabolic activity indirectly and with a huge
delay. They have a nice spatial and a poor temporal resolution. As you
cannot do electrophysiology in humans, you have to rely on these
coarse mesurements. If you are trying to correlate higher cognitive
functions like speech processing with these data, then you are
throwing around with big words and make big assumptions without solid
ground. Those studies are generally regarded to be suspicious.
We don't know how physiology mediates behaviour... If you had read
what we're researching on... well what everybody is working on : this
is it.

GS: Now this is really interesting stuff. Do you know of O'Regan and
They're behaviorists only they don't know it.
YES. I'm familiar with their works. I'm also familiar with the
successful works of Paul Bach-y-Rita. I like both. Of course tehy are
behaviourists, too. But at least their theories work and Bach-y-Ritas
devices work as well.

GS: Well, I would have to agree. But it isn't "cognitive science;" not
unless you can tell me what "cognitions" are.
GS: And what, exactly, is human cognition?

My God. I am interested in attentional mechanisms, conscious
perception, binding, exploratory motor behaviour, visual processing,
attention for action, response selection, emotions... I think whatever
definition I look up on the internet... this would be quite a good
share of "cognition". And if this does not suffice in your eyes...

GS: Let's far you have talked about behavior, and you have
about physiology..nope...I don't see any cognitions, do you?

GS: Does it have anything to do with
"human behavior?"

Sure thing. You can't regard the brain detached from the body.
External physiological reactions go hand in hand with certain tasks.
E.g. saccades, nystagmus, ANS activity. We act therefore we are. Of
course you have to have a look inside the black box and predict and
explain what you see.

GS: Let me ask you this: Do we see the world, or do we see a copy (of
whatever sort) of the world "in our brain?" Do you talk about storage
retrieval at all?

There are retinotopic mappings of various forms to be found in the
brain. However, I think that the world acts as an outside memory. I
think you know the discussions. This is my opinion. No, I don't talk
about storage and retrieval at all. These terms are very biased
towards the good old computational metaphor of mind. But it might also
be due to the fact that I'm not working on memory processes right now.

GS: In my opinion, the cognitive "science" movement is the worst thing
ever happened to psychology, philosophy, AI, behavioral neurobiology,
anthropology etc. I think it might have also been responsible for

Do you remember the part about "not productive". This is heading
nowhere. Sry.

GS: You're welcome. BTW, do you know the German word that translates
to "the
soul of the nervous system?" It starts with "R" - something like

Sorry. Sounds funny... but I never heard it before and can't think of
a single word describing "the
soul of the nervous system". BTW: reumarch... sounds like a dutch word

. . . . . .. 
To make it short. You want to an explanation and a definition of
cognition. You want it without behavioural experiments. These are
futile because we "don't know how physiology mediates behaviour".
You want cognitions... NOW ! Well... why isn't there anybody looking
for cognitions ?
There are people looking for attentional effects, for conscious
perception, action selection, cortical plasticity, memory processes,
emotions. And then they use electrophysiology, imaging techniques and
behavioural paradigms to find out "how physiology mediates
And you ask : Where is the cognition in there ?
If terms like, attention, conscious awareness, action selection not
comensurable with your big picture of human cognition... well these
tiny little terms we try to explain are exciting enough for me.
And if contemporary methods in neuroscience contain too much
behaviourism for you... well, so be it.

Here are short replies to the last posting... but I don't think we're
heading for a solution here.
I think we should discontinue this discussion. Please :)

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