PSYA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Lightning, Karl Lashley, Cognitive Neuroscience

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12 Aug 2016
The brain meets the mind: the rise of cognitive neuroscience
If cognitive psychologists studied the software of the mind, they had little to say about the
hardware of the brain
And yet, as any computer scientist knows, the relationship between software and hardware is
crucial: Each element needs the other to get the job done
Our mental activities often seem so natural and effortless—noticing the shape of an object,
using words in speech or writing, recognizing a face as familiar—that we fail to appreciate the
fact that they depend on intricate operations carried out by the brain
This dependence is revealed by dramatic cases in which damage to a particular part of the brain
causes a person to lose a specific cognitive ability
Karl Lashley
conducted a famous series of studies in which he trained rats to run mazes, surgically removed
parts of their brains, and then measured how well they could run the maze again
Lashley hoped to find the precise spot in the brain where learning occurred
Alas, no one spot seemed to uniquely and reliably eliminate learning
Rather, Lashley simply found that the more of the rat’s brain he removed, the more poorly the
rat ran the maze
Lashley was frustrated by his inability to identify a specific site of learning, but his efforts
inspired other scientists to take up the challenge
They developed a research area called physiological psychology. Today, this area has grown
into behavioral neuroscience – an approach to psychology that links psychological processes to
activities in the nervous system and other bodily processes
To learn about the relationship between brain and behavior, behavioral neuroscientists observe
animals’ responses as the animals perform specially constructed tasks, such as running through
a maze to obtain food rewards. The neuroscientists can record electrical or chemical responses
in the brain as the task is being performed or later remove specific parts of the brain to see how
performance is affected.
Of course, experimental brain surgery cannot ethically be performed on human beings; thus
psychologists who want to study the human brain often have had to rely on nature’s cruel and
inexact experiments. Birth defects, accidents, and illnesses often cause damage to particular
brain regions, and if this damage disrupts a particular ability, then psychologists deduce that the
region is involved in producing the ability.
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