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Chapter 2

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PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

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 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  Almost everything we know about brain structure and function comes from animal brains o CONS  Full understanding of an animal’s brain operations does not result in complete understanding human brain operations  Structural and functional differences across species limits our ability to generalize  Homologous structures can be difficult to identify across species and animals b/c they have different specializations  Ex: A rat brain is mostly dedicated to olfactory input whereas a human brain is dedicated to visual input 2.3.2 Behavioural Studies - Behavioural studies combine our knowledge of normal sensory systems with precise stimulus presentation and response recording o However, we cannot draw a direct link between behaviour and underlying brain mechanism - Studies of brain injuries can provide evidence for the localization of one or more structures by relating the symptoms displayed by patients to the parts of the brain that have been damaged o Broca’s aphasia: Difficulty with speech production due to damage to Broca’s area (area in left hemisphere responsible for how words are spoke
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