Mind Neuroscience News

New methods of neuroscience found wanting?

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At the Economist, anyway:

One common tactic in brain science is to compare damaged brains with healthy ones. If damage to part of the brain causes predictable changes in behaviour, then researchers can infer what that part of the brain does. In rats, for instance, damaging the hippocampuses—two small, banana-shaped structures buried towards the bottom of the brain—reliably interferes with the creatures’ ability to recognise objects.

When applied to the chip, though, that method turned up some interesting false positives. The researchers found, for instance, that disabling one particular group of transistors prevented the chip from running the boot-up sequence of “Donkey Kong”—the Nintendo game that introduced Mario the plumber to the world—while preserving its ability to run other games. But it would be a mistake, Dr Jonas points out, to conclude that those transistors were thus uniquely responsible for “Donkey Kong”. The truth is more subtle. They are instead part of a circuit which implements a much more basic computing function that is crucial for loading one piece of software, but not some others.More.

Probably any reductive attempt the understand the mind and the brain will fail, even with a computer model. Maybe especially with a computer model? Trying to compare the human brain with a chimpanzee brain is a mistake, but at least the chimp wants something. So we have something to work with. What does a computer want?

See also: With only 302 neurons, worms can learn?

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