ISBN: 9780262320672 | 416 pp. | December 2014

After Phrenology

Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain

The computer analogy of the mind has been as widely adopted in contemporary cognitive neuroscience as was the analogy of the brain as a collection of organs in phrenology. Just as the phrenologist would insist that each organ must have its particular function, so contemporary cognitive neuroscience is committed to the notion that each brain region must have its fundamental computation. In After Phrenology, Michael Anderson argues that to achieve a fully post-phrenological science of the brain, we need to reassess this commitment and devise an alternate, neuroscientifically grounded taxonomy of mental function.

Anderson contends that the cognitive roles played by each region of the brain are highly various, reflecting different neural partnerships established under different circumstances. He proposes quantifying the functional properties of neural assemblies in terms of their dispositional tendencies rather than their computational or information-processing operations. Exploring larger-scale issues, and drawing on evidence from embodied cognition, Anderson develops a picture of thinking rooted in the exploitation and extension of our early-evolving capacity for iterated interaction with the world. He argues that the multidimensional approach to the brain he describes offers a much better fit for these findings, and a more promising road toward a unified science of minded organisms.

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Introduction
  3. I. Brains
  4. 1. Neural Reuse and the Need for a New Approach to Understanding Brain Function
  5. Interlude 1. On the Importance of Neural Teamwork
  6. 2. Interactive Differentiation and the Search for Neural Coalitions: Neural Reuse in the Functional Development of the Brain
  7. Interlude 2. You Are Not Your Connectome! Sorry, Understanding the Brain (or People) Will Not Be That Simple
  8. 3. Neural Reuse in Contemporary Cognitive Science
  9. Interlude 3. The Dynamic Brain: What Your Brain Is Doing When It's Not Doing Anything
  10. 4. Do Brain Regions Have Personalities of Their Own? Toward a Dispositional Neuroscience
  11. Interlude 4. The Eyes Have It: Unraveling the Brain by Tugging on a Retinal Thread
  12. II. Bodies
  13. 5. Brains and Their Bodies
  14. Interlude 5. Network Thinking
  15. 6. Embodiment, Computation, and Control
  16. Interlude 6. Is Our Brain as Good as It Gets?
  17. III. Beings
  18. 7. Languaging with an Interactive Brain
  19. Interlude 7. What Mindedness Is
  20. 8. A Functionalist Neuroscience for the Twenty-First Century
  21. Appendix
  22. References
  23. Index