[Neuroscience] Re: Wherefore art thou Neuron Code?

r norman via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by r_s_norman from _comcast.net)
Tue Apr 3 14:39:43 EST 2007

On Tue, 3 Apr 2007 14:37:33 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
<gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote:

>"r norman" <r_s_norman from _comcast.net> wrote in message 
>news:ps0513hq9j3tdccfr5d2fmkbc89ps8usl4 from 4ax.com...
>> On Tue, 3 Apr 2007 12:32:51 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
>> <gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>"r norman" <r_s_norman from _comcast.net> wrote in message
>>>news:n66313lovgrk2hu76f4ot0a55e9qte5nd5 from 4ax.com...
>>>On Mon, 2 Apr 2007 18:47:00 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
>>>> <gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>>>"r norman" <r_s_norman from _comcast.net> wrote in message
>>>>>news:mdm213tbel5su02cbsca2l1brkeeb2pa3o from 4ax.com...
>>>>>> On Mon, 2 Apr 2007 14:07:26 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
>>>>>> <gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>>>>>"Entertained by my own EIMC" <write_to_eimc from ozemail.com.au> wrote in
>>>>>>>news:461109ff$0$15007$5a62ac22 from per-qv1-newsreader-01.iinet.net.au...
>>>>>>>> "Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote in message
>>>>>>>> news:4610ed18$0$24160$ed362ca5 from nr2.newsreader.com...
>>>>>>>> <snip>
>>>>>>>>> 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.
>>>>>>>> You obvously both have a valid point AND get to feel good by making
>>>>>>>> it.
>>>>>>>>> Note that, despite Kandel's careless
>>>>>>>> > language, "habituation" is conceptually clean.
>>>>>>>> IOW, it is a concept you can understand.
>>>>>>>No, I mean that when you take time to carefully analyze it, it isn't
>>>>>>>like the storage and retrieval metaphors and 99% of the other junk 
>>>>>>>characterizes cognitve "science."
>>>>>> I was wondering where you were coming from about that.  In straight
>>>>>> neurobiology (an actual science, not the "cognitive" type),  Kandel's
>>>>>> habituation is a  specific phenomenon with a specific and justly
>>>>>> Nobelish level mechanism behind it.
>>>>>I'm well aware of that. But the notions of storage and retrieval have 
>>>>>troublesome and, say what you will, his graduate-level textbook is full 
>>>>>that stuff, as well as other rather specious concepts. I can talk about
>>>>>stuff without a single metaphor and the reason is that I have been 
>>>>>to see the danger of silly concepts. The problem is, perhaps, not so 
>>>>>when we are talking about habituation, classical conditioning, and
>>>>>but things rapidly get out of control. And the fact is that the people 
>>>>>neuroscience that are interested rather directly in behavior are
>>>>>cognitive. Many of them think they are looking for knowledge in the 
>>>>>The mereological fallacy is the rule in most of neuroscience that tries 
>>>>>make direct contact with behavior. Science is difficult enough when one 
>>>>>ultra careful with language, and it becomes nigh on impossible when one 
>>>> I come from the side of neurobiology that deals directly with behavior
>>>> -- but it is invertebrate behavior where tracing complex patterns of
>>>> activity directly to the activity of identified neurons is the rule.
>>>> Perhaps Kandel, from the same school (except he was a slimy -- working
>>>> with molluscs instead of the more noble crunchies -- working with
>>>> arthropods) led him to make rather overbroad extensions to that
>>>> strange and minor group of animals with a hole running down the length
>>>> of their nervous systems.  Certainly he was very roundly criticized
>>>> from the outset, about fifty years ago, now, about how his dedication
>>>> to gill withdrawal in slugs had nothing at all to do with "real"
>>>> behavior that some overreaction would be expected.
>>>I'll grant that that is an interesting take on some of the behavioral- and
>>>cultural-level variables operating on Kandel's behavior. I'm not sure 
>>>completely on the same page here, though. I failed to mention something 
>>>you gave me the opening, so I would like to remedy that. You said: 
>>>habituation is a specific phenomenon with a specific and justly Nobelish
>>>level mechanism behind it." My reply contained no sins of commission but 
>>>contain one of omission; habituation is also a BEHAVIORAL mechanism. It 
>>>thus, one of the things that must be explained. It is the name applied 
>>>reflexes (or elicited behavior if one wants to see "reflex" as only "brief
>>>and simple") diminish in intensity upon repeated elicitation, and the
>>>diminution is relatively long-lasting. It is, of course, frequently called
>>>the simplest kind of learning. It is also called a kind of memory. Now, 
>>>not arguing that it isn't a kind of memory, I am arguing that "memory" is
>>>the stepping stone in the creation of one of the most monumental 
>>>disasters in science. If habituation of the gill-withdrawal reflex (GWR) 
>>>an example of memory why, then, there must be a representation. And to get
>>>even more silly (but remember, it ain't my view) it must be a 
>>>of whatever Kandel poked the gill with. A representation of the 
>>>is stored and retrieved when it does its pokey thing again. The foregoing 
>>>obfuscation of the highest order and worth a chuckle, but it is just as
>>>inappropriate when a baby's looking response (toward a speaker) habituates
>>>to "ba" but not "pa." There is no copy of "ba" in its brain that can be
>>>consulted so the little nipper can decide whether to look or not (here the
>>>"executive decision" wouldn't come from the PFC- probably more like a
>>>mid-level file manager that lives in the hippocampus), and studying the
>>>underlying physiology is not a matter of "finding out how the brain
>>>understands phonemes" or some such nonsense. And it is just as 
>>>when I recall a figure in a paper and draw it on a blackboard (the 
>>>behavioral mechanisms don't include habituation, though). The 
>>>into this point of view requires special training to combat, and Kandel
>>>simply did not have it. Little wonder (and no offense meant), there's only 
>>>few thousand people in the world that ARE prepared to argue these 
>>>issues. Whether Kandel could see the silliness of the view and chose to 
>>>as he did about "memory" and "storage" and "retrieval" and, ultimately,
>>>"representation" for some sort of PR campaign designed to enhance the
>>>attractiveness of his slimies, or he was under the impression that "as 
>>>as you define your terms, you are ok," (the more likely scenario - this is
>>>the legacy of mainstream psychology's take on Bridgeman's "operationism"),
>>>the cognitive conceptual structure exerts a hegemony over mainstream
>>>psychology and the large part of neuroscience that it has corrupted.
>>>Occasionally people like Kevin O'Regan or Bennett and Hacker appear on the
>>>scene and make a little splash (or not) but the disastrous conceptual
>>>scheme, wrought by the cognitive continuation of animism, is unabated. 
>>>you know, I don't have very strong feelings one way or another. :)
>>>Anyway, in closing, the solution has always been with us, and that 
>>>is behaviorism with its overarching obsession with conceptual analysis.
>>>Habituation is real, the storage of memories is not; classical 
>>>is real, but nothing is retrieved. Operant conditioning is real, but
>>>intentions are not, and it is more than a harmless facon de parler. The
>>>simple effects of repeated presentation of stimuli, classical 
>>>operant conditioning - these things are real, fundamental behavioral
>>>processe,s and they go far in explaining behavior at the behavioral level,
>>>and it is they, rather than knowledge, intentions, beliefs, etc. etc. etc.
>>>etc., that must be explained at the physiological level. But, as I said, I
>>>don't really have strong feelings on the matter.
>> I agree fully.  I, too, get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach
>> whenever I talk about  habituation of gill withdrawal in Aplysia
>> having some really significant bearing on what we really mean by human
>> learning.
>Well, without getting (too) long-winded again, I am saying that habituation 
>of the GWR does have something to say about human-level behavior, at least 
>in a certain sense. Once again, "habituation" has the advantage of being a 
>real behavioral process. On the other hand, finding a neuron that fires 
>whenever a suitably-experienced mouse comes upon anything that can be used 
>as a nest is a fact, but it is said to be "a breakthrough in understanding 
>how the brain develops concepts." No, it is fact of probable importance in 
>the eventual physiological understanding of stimulus control - more 
>specifically, it is a fact of probable importance concerning how individual 
>response classes* lose their individuality (under the impact of adding 
>additional exemplars into the contingencies) and become the sort of broad 
>response class that we call "a concept." It is a fact of probable importance 
>concerning how physiology mediates the effects of environmental 
>contingencies on behavioral response classes. To say the former (i.e., "a 
>breakthrough in how the brain forms concepts" or whatever) is to formulate a 
>science around a category error and to ask questions that cannot, 
>ultimately, be given coherent answers.
>*Here the designation of a response class encompasses the notion of a 
>stimulus class as well.
>>Still, it is an important illustration of mechanisms behind
>> neural plasticity.  And trans-synaptic facilitation starts to approach
>> associative learning.  What else do we have to go on to explain
>> cellular mechanisms of memory?
>I agree except I would say "What else do we have to go on to study the 
>physiology of the fundamental conditioning processes?" [Though habituation 
>is not usually called a kind of "conditioning".] In closing, I would say 
>that conditioning explains memory phenomena, not the other way around. And 
>it is a way to explain the myriad of phenomena said to be "kinds of memory" 
>within a framework that encompasses the behavior of all organisms with a few 
>core concepts. Kandel's work is not about "memory" it is about habituation. 
>STM experiments (in humans and otherwise) are not about "memory" they are 
>about operant conditioning where some more-or-less specific response is 
>learned that is repeated or endures during the "retention interval" and then 
>it is that behavior that exerts stimulus control over the response at the 
>end of the retention interval. Much of neurobiology is a failure, not only 
>because the behavior of vertebrates (especially mammals) is complex, but 
>because it has invited the elevation of folk-concepts to scientific 
>concepts, and that just doesn't work. There is habituation (as well as 
>sensitization), there is Pavlovian conditioning, and there is operant 
>conditioning. That's all there is. It is easy to say that, and it is true, 
>but the processes are enormously complex and concatenate to form exceedingly 
>complex behavior. But the goal of science is simple: Formulate the laws of 
>habituation, classical conditioning and operant conditioning at the 
>behavioral level, and then explain how physiology mediates these behavioral 
>functions. Though I prefer pigeons, rats and monkeys, the invertebrate stuff 
>is of enormous importance because it has the potential of being conceptually 
>clear (it is a real behavioral process, not a category error) and clean (of 
>course, not if we say that the gill poke is stored), the range of phenomena 
>is circumscribed, and the physiological system is simple enough to make some 
>kind of real sense out of it. More long-winded than I had hoped but there 
>you have it.

That is why working on lobster  stomach (as in stomatogastric system)
is so much less worrisome!

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