Chapter 2: The Neural Basis for Cognition
Capgras Syndrome: An initial Example
Capgras Syndrome: Fully able to recognize the people in their world but is
utterly convinced that these people are not who they appear to be. Most
common in elderly. (People they love have been replaced by imposters)
o What’s going on here?
According to some researchers, facial recognition involves two
separate systems in the brain, one of which leads to a cognitive
appraisal (“I know what my father looks like, and I can
perceive that you closely resemble them”), and the other to a
more global, emotional appraisal (“You look familiar to me and
also trigger a warm response in me”).
The concordance of these two appraisals then leads to the
certainty of recognition (You are my father).
In Capgras syndrome, the latter (emotional) processing is
disrupted, leading to the intellectual indentification without
the familiarity response.
The Neural Basis for Capgras Syndrome
Neuroimaging techniques: Developed in the last few decades, that allow
researchers to take high-quality, three-dimensional “pictures” of living
brains, without any way disturbing the brain’s owners.
Some types of neuroimaging data provide portraits of the physical makeup of
the brain (Through MRI scans)
These scans suggest a link between Capgras syndrome and abnormalities in
several brain areas, indicating that our account of the syndrome will need
One site of damage in Capgras patients is in the temporal lobe. This damage
probably disrupts circuits involving the amygdala (serves as the emotional
evaluator), helping an organism to detect stimuli associated with threat or
With damaged amygdala, people wont experience the warm sense of feeling
good when looking at a loved ones familiar face.
People with Capgras Syndrome also have brain abnormalities in the frontal
lobe, specifically in the prefrontal cortex which is extremely active when a
person is engaged in tasks that require planning.
fMRI: allows us to track moment by moment activity levels in different sites
in a living brain.
With damage in the frontal lobe, Capgras patients may be less able to keep
track of what is real and what is not, what is sensible and what is not.
What do we learn from Capgras Syndrome? Recognition of all stimuli involves 2 separate mechanisms: One that hinges
on factual knowledge, and one that’s more emotional and ties to the warm
sense of familiarity
The damage to the amygdala is probably the reason Capgras patients
experience no sense of familiarity when the look at faces they know well.
The damage to the prefrontal cortex helps us understand why Capgras
patients offer such crazy hypotheses about their skewed perception.
The Study of the Brain
The human brain weights between 3 and 4 pounds; roughly the size of a
Contains a trillion nerve cells. Each of which is connected to 10,000 or so
others—for the total of roughly 10 million billion connections.
Also contains a huge number of glial cells
Hindbrain, Midbrain, Forebrain
Hindbrain: sits directly atop the spinal cord and plays an essential role in
maintaining the body’s overall tone; specifically, the hindbrain helps
maintain the body’s posture and balance, and it helps control the brains level
o The largest area of the hindbrain is the cerebellum. Damage to this
organ can cause problems in spatial reasoning, in discriminating
sounds, and in integrating the input received from various sensory
Midbrain: Plays an important part in coordinating your movements. There
are also circuits that relay auditory information from the ears to the areas in
the forebrain where this information is processed and interpreted.
Forebrain: (Surrounds the entire midbrain and most of the hindbrain)
Cortex (Latin word for “tree bark”) refers to an organs outer surface, and
many organs each have their own cortex.
o Thin covering ob the outer surface of the forebrain. The cortex
constitutes 80% of the human brain. It consists of a very large sheet of
tissue (if stretched out, it would cover more than 2 sq ft). It is
crumpled up and jammed into the limited space inside the skull.
o Its this crumpling that produces the brains most obvious visual
feature—the wrinkles, or convolutions, that cover the brains outer
o Some of the “valleys” between the wrinkles are actually deep groves
that divide the brain into different sections. The deepest groove is the
longitundinal fissure, running from the front of the brain to the
back, which seperates the left cerebral hemisphere from the right.
The frontal lobes form the front of the brain—right behind the forehead.
The central fissure divides the frontal lobes on each side of the brain from
the parietal lobes, the brains topmost part. The bottom edge of the frontal lobes Is marked by the lateral fissure, and
below it are the temporal loves.
At the very back of the brain, connected to the parietal and temporal lobes,
are the occipital lobes.
Underneath the cortex, are the subcortical parts of the forebrain. One of
these parts, the thalamus, acts as a relay station for nearly all the sensory
information going to the cortex.
Directly underneath the thalamus is the hypothalamus, a structure that
plays a crucial role in controlling motivated behaviours such as eating,
drinking and sexual activity.
Surrounding the hypothalamus and thalamus is the limbic system. Included
here is the amygdala, and close by is the hippocampus, both located
underneath the cortex in the temporal lobe. These structures are essential
are essential for learning and memory
All parts of the brain come in pairs
There are differences in function between the left side and the right ride
Commissures: thick bundles of fibers that carry information back and forth
between the 2 hemispheres.
The largest commissure is the corpus callosum
“Split brain patient” still having both brain halves, but with communication
between the halves severely limited.
Data from Neuropsychology
neuropsychology: the study of the brains structures and how they relate to
Clinical psychology: understands the functioning of intact, undamaged
brains by careful scrutiny of cases involving brain damage.
A Lesion(specific area of damage) in the hippocampus produces memory
problems but not language disorders; a lesion in the occipital cortex
produces problems in vision but spares the other sensory modalities.
Damage to the left side of the frontal lobe is likely to produce a disruption of
language use; damage to the riht side of the frontal lobe doesn’t have this
Data from Neuroimaging
Computerized axial tomography (CT scans): study the brains structure.
Rely on X-rays
Positron emission tomography (PET scans): study the brains activity.
Start by introducing a tracer substance such a glucose into the body; the
molecules o this tracer have been tagged with a low dose of radioactivity and the scan keeps track of this radioactivity, allowing us to tell which tissues are
using more of the glucose and which are using less.
The computer reconstructs a 3 dimensional map of the brain. For CT scans,
the map tells us the shape, size, and position of structures. For PET scans, the
maps tells us what regions are active at any point in time
Magnetic resonance imaging(MRI): relies on the magnetic properties of
the atoms that make up the brain tissue, and it yields fabulously detailed
pictures of the brain.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI): meausres the oxygen
content in the blood flowing through each region of the brain. Picture of
brains moment by moment activities.
Data from Electrical Recording
Neurons do the brains main work
Neurtransmitters: Once a neuron is activated it releases the transmitter,
and this chemical can then activate (or de-activate) other, immediately-
adjacent neurons. This neuron receives this chemical signal and then send
the signal onward to still other neurons
Process requires two types of communication: “between neurons” which
involves what we just desciribes; and”within neuron: which is demanded by
the fact that neurons generally have an input end and an output end. The
input end is the portion of the nueiron that’s most sensitive to
neurotransmitter. The output end is the portion of the neuron that releases
the neurotransmitter, sending the signal on to other neurons.
How do neurons get the signal from one end of the cell to the other?
o Electrical pulse, made possible by a flow of charged atoms in and out
of the neuron.
This is the basis for electroencephalography-- a recording of voltage
changes occurring at the