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Cognitive Neuroscience

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How do we make decisions? Conventional decision theory tells us only which behavioral choices we ought to make if we follow certain axioms. In real life, however, our choices are governed by cognitive mechanisms shaped over evolutionary time through the process of natural selection. Evolution has created strong biases in how and when we process information, and it is these evolved cognitive building blocks—from signal detection and memory to individual and social learning—that provide the foundation for our choices.

Edited by Barry E. Stein

Scientists' attempts to understand the physiology underlying our apprehension of the physical world was long dominated by a focus on the individual senses. The 1980s saw the beginning of systematic efforts to examine interactions among different sensory modalities at the level of the single neuron. And by the end of the 1990s, a recognizable and multidisciplinary field of "multisensory processes" had emerged.

Analogous Processes on Different Levels

We form individual memories by a process known as consolidation: the conversion of immediate and fleeting bits of information into a stable and accessible representation of facts and events. These memories provide a version of the past that helps us navigate the present and is critical to individual identity. In this book, Thomas Anastasio, Kristen Ann Ehrenberger, Patrick Watson, and Wenyi Zhang propose that social groups form collective memories by analogous processes.

How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

In Plato's Camera, eminent philosopher Paul Churchland offers a novel account of how the brain constructs a representation—or "takes a picture"—of the universe’s timeless categorical and dynamical structure. This construction process, which begins at birth, yields the enduring background conceptual framework with which we will interpret our sensory experience for the rest of our lives. But, as even Plato knew, to make singular perceptual judgments requires that we possess an antecedent framework of abstract categories to which any perceived particular can be relevantly assimilated.

This volume offers a range of perspectives on a simple problem: How does the brain choose efficiently and adaptively among options to ensure coherent, goal-directed behavior? The contributors, from fields as varied as anatomy, psychology, learning theory, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, behavioral economics, and computational modeling, present an overview of key approaches in the study of cognitive control and decision making.

Contemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition

Do animals have cognitive maps? Do they possess knowledge? Do they plan for the future? Do they understand that others have mental lives of their own? This volume provides a state-of-the-art assessment of animal cognition, with experts from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ecology, and evolutionary biology addressing these questions in an integrative fashion. It summarizes the latest research, identifies areas where consensus has been reached, and takes on current controversies.

Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) suffer most visibly with such motor deficits as tremor and rigidity and less obviously with a range of nonmotor symptoms, including autonomic dysfunction, mood disorders, and cognitive impairment. The neuropsychiatric disturbances of PD can be as disabling as its motor disorders; but they have only recently begun to be studied intensively by clinicians and scientists.

A Critical Appraisal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience explores the relationship between our minds and our brains, most recently by drawing on brain imaging techniques to align neural mechanisms with psychological processes. In Mind and Brain, William Uttal offers a critical review of cognitive neuroscience, examining both its history and modern developments in the field. He pays particular attention to the role of brain imaging--especially functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)--in studying the mind-brain relationship.

In The Self-Organizing Social Mind, John Bolender proposes a new explanation for the forms of social relations. He argues that the core of social-relational cognition exhibits beauty—in the physicist’s sense of the word, associated with symmetry. Bolender describes a fundamental set of patterns in interpersonal cognition, which account for the resulting structures of social life in terms of their symmetries and the breaking of those symmetries.

The Mental Processes of Communication

In Cognitive Pragmatics, Bruno Bara offers a theory of human communication that is both formalized through logic and empirically validated through experimental data and clinical studies. Bara argues that communication is a cooperative activity in which two or more agents together consciously and intentionally construct the meaning of their interaction. In true communication (which Bara distinguishes from the mere transmission of information), all the actors must share a set of mental states.

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