Homeostasis, a key concept in biology, refers to the tendency toward stability in the various bodily states that make up the internal environment. Examples include temperature regulation and oxygen consumption. The body's needs, however, do not remain constant. When an organism is under stress, the central nervous system works with the endocrine system to use resources to maintain the overall viability of the organism. The process accelerates the various systems' defenses of bodily viability, but can violate short-term homeostasis. This allostatic regulation highlights our ability to anticipate, adapt to, and cope with impending future events.
In Rethinking Homeostasis, Jay Schulkin defines and explores many aspects of allostasis, including the wear and tear on tissues and accelerated pathophysiology caused by allostatic overload. Focusing on the concept of motivation and its relationship to the central nervous system function and specific hormonal systems, he applies a neuroendocrine perspective to central motive states such as cravings for water, sodium, food, sex, and drugs. He examines in detail the bodily consequences of the behavioral and neuroendocrine regulation of fear and adversity, the endocrine regulation of normal and preterm birth, and the effects of drug addiction on the body. Schulkin's presentation of allostasis lays the foundation for further study.
We are social animals, with evolved mechanisms to discern the beliefs and desires of others. This social reason is linked to the concept of intentionality, the ability to attribute beliefs and desires to others. In this book Jay Schulkin explores social reason from philosophical, psychological, and cognitive neuroscientific perspectives. He argues for a pragmatist approach, in which the role of experience—that is, interaction with others—is central to any consideration of action in the social world. Unlike some philosophers of mind, Jay Schulkin considers social reason to be a real feature of the information processing system in the brain, in addition to a useful cognitive tool in predicting behavior. Throughout the book, he incorporates neurobiological evidence for a domain-specific system for social cognition.
Topics covered include the centrality of intentional attribution to social cognition, the rise of cognitive science in the twentieth century, the functional argument for the role of experience, intentional understanding in nonhuman primates, theory of mind and natural kinds in children, autism as a disorder of theory of mind, and the integration of emotions into theory of mind.