[Neuroscience] Re: Wherefore art thou Neuron Code?

Glen M. Sizemore via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com)
Mon Apr 2 06:46:37 EST 2007

"John H." <bingblat from goaway.com.au> wrote in message 
news:461097d6 from quokka.wn.com.au...
> It's Only A Game Of Chance: Leading Theory Of Perception Called Into
> Question
> Science Daily - The validity of a leading theory that has held a glimmer 
> of
> hope for unraveling the intricacies of the brain has just been called into
> question. Dr. Ilan Lampl of the Weizmann Institute of Science's 
> Neurobiology
> Department has produced convincing evidence to the contrary. His findings
> recently appeared in the journal Neuron.
> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070327144225.htm
"According to the theory, the brain is able to discriminate between, say, a 
chair and a table because each of them will generate a distinct sequence of 
patterns within the neural system that the brain then interprets."

Let's assume for a moment that chairs and tables are "distinct patterns." 
Then the question becomes "How do the distinct patterns we call 'chair' and 
'table' come to produce these different responses?" Notice that the common 
theory is simply that the difference in the patterns are somehow preserved 
in the brain. But how does this explain anything? We now have to explain how 
the differences in pattern "in the brain" explain the differences in 
response. If this was a legitimate question when the "patterns" were out in 
the environment, why is it not a legitimate question when the pattern is "in 
the brain"? I won't comment extensively on the rest of the blurb because not 
enough information is given about what was done other than to say that 
Skinner always used to say things like "The pattern of stimulation on the 
retina is quickly lost in the nervous system" (this is a paraphrase). I 
began to think that he was just a bit behind the times, and my criticism of 
representationalism focused on the fact that 1.) "representation" must be 
functionally-defined (i.e. a "mapping is not necessarily a "representation" 
and 2.), that the presence of "mappings" in the brain does no more to 
explain seeing than patterns in the world. Now it seems that even the notion 
of a consistent mapping may be bullshit. As I have said many times, despite 
the arm-breaking self-back-patting of neuroscientists (especially those that 
are concerned with behavior) we are about at the level where we have a 
more-or-less complete description of habituation of the gill-withdrawal 
reflex in Aplysia. The general point to be made is that, in many, many cases 
in neuroscience, behavior hasn't been broken down into the right analytical 
units - that is, the conceptual structure inherited from mainstream 
psychology is, literally, nonsense. Note that, despite Kandel's careless 
language, "habituation" is conceptually clean.


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