PSYC 213 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Necker Cube, Steam Whistle, Pineal Gland

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CHAPTER 2: COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
- Goal of cognitive neuroscience: Discover the brain mechanisms that produce
human mental functions such as language, memory and attention
- Cognitive neuroscientists must assume that the mind is composed of modules
(sections of the brain, each of which is responsible for particular cognitive
operations)
2.1 The Brain as the Organ of the Mind
- Gall and Spurzheim promoted phrenology (study of the shape, size and
protrusions of the cranium to discover the relation of parts of the brain to various
mental activities and abilities)
o 3 basic principles:
Brain is the only organ of the mind
Basic character and intellectual traits are innate
There must exist differentially developed areas in the brain
responsible for differences in character and intellectual traits
among individuals
o Greater developed functions = greater the protrusion on the skull
- Localization of function: Attempt to discover correspondences between specific
cognitive functions and specific parts of the brain
o Assumes there is a one-to-one correspondence between functions and
parts of the brain
- Franz was an expert in techniques of ablation (parts of the animal’s cortex are
destroyed and the results are observed)
o Concluded that mental processes are not due to independent activities of
individual parts of the brain, but to the activities of the brain as a whole
- Franz and Lashley studied the effect of ablation on the frontal lobes in rats. They
made small holes in the skull and used histology (microscopic analysis of tissue
structure) to find where the lesions had occurred and see the effects on
remembering a simple learned maze habit
- Lashley lesioned the cortex of rats in different places and to different degrees
o Performance declined as the difficulty of the task increased and/or the
amount of brain damage increased
Small lesions produce no symptoms or very transient ones
o Law of mass action: Learning and memory depend on the total mass of
brain tissue remaining rather than properties of individual cells
o Law of equipotential: Even though some areas of the cortex may be
specialized for certain tasks, within limits any part of an area can do the
job of any other part of that area
o Used the metaphor of electric sign: Bulbs in an electronic sign may be
used to display a number of messages, and similarly the cortex can be
organized in any number of ways depending on circumstances
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2.2 The Relation between Mind and Brain
- Consciousness: What we are aware of at any point in time
- Mind: Broader concept that includes consciousness and processes that may take
place outside of our awareness
- Traditional attempts to formulate an answer to mind/brain relation include:
o Interactionism: Mind and brain are separate, but interact with and
influence each other
Descartes said that despite the mind and brain being separate they
interact at the pineal gland
o Epiphenomenalism: Mind is a by-product of bodily functioning
Huxley used the steam whistle analogy. Just as you would not
discover much about the locomotive by studying the steam, you
would not discover much about the brain by examining what goes
on in the mind
o Parallelism: Mind and brain are two aspects of the same reality and flow
in parallel; for all events in the mind there will be corresponding events in
the brain
Fechner studied the relationship between events in the external
world and the mind and brain
o Isomorphism: Mental and neural events share the same structure
Can be traced to Gestalt psychologists such as Kohler
Argued that consciousness tends to be organized into a
coherent whole
Experience and corresponding brain process share the same pattern
Psychological facts and the underlying events in the brain resemble
each other in all their structural characteristics
Figure of Necker cube can reverse itself in one’s focus;
external stimulus is constant but the internal subjective
experience varies
Kohler believed that alterations of Necker cube was a result of
prolonged inspection of a figure
Cortical representation of a figure becomes fatigued and
another part of the cortex begins to represent the figure
As the cortex representation changes, so does one’s
perception of it
2.3 Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience
2.3.1 Animal Models
- Indirect route to investigating brain mechanisms in humans is by animal models
o PROS
Carefully controlled lesions (ex: reversible lesions produced by
cooling) allows the relationship between different brain regions to
be specified
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Document Summary

Goal of cognitive neuroscience: discover the brain mechanisms that produce human mental functions such as language, memory and attention. Cognitive neuroscientists must assume that the mind is composed of modules (sections of the brain, each of which is responsible for particular cognitive operations) 2. 1 the brain as the organ of the mind. Gall and spurzheim promoted phrenology (study of the shape, size and protrusions of the cranium to discover the relation of parts of the brain to various mental activities and abilities: 3 basic principles: Brain is the only organ of the mind. Basic character and intellectual traits are innate. There must exist differentially developed areas in the brain responsible for differences in character and intellectual traits among individuals: greater developed functions = greater the protrusion on the skull. Localization of function: attempt to discover correspondences between specific cognitive functions and specific parts of the brain: assumes there is a one-to-one correspondence between functions and parts of the brain.

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