After Phrenology

After Phrenology

Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain

By Michael L. Anderson

A proposal for a fully post-phrenological neuroscience that details the evolutionary roots of functional diversity in brain regions and networks.

A Bradford Book





A proposal for a fully post-phrenological neuroscience that details the evolutionary roots of functional diversity in brain regions and networks.

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.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262028103 416 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 7 color illus., 26 b&w illus.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262544733 416 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 7 color illus., 26 b&w illus.


  • After Phrenology by Michael L. Anderson is a unique and thought-provoking contribution to the current debate on how cognition interfaces with the environment and how we can move scientific studies of the brain forward. His theory of 'neural reuse' is a proposal for how we may re-frame the debate and fills in some of the gaps that exist now when we communicate about the mind, the brain, and the environment.



  • Techniques for mapping and recording brain structure and function are powerful as never before—and yet, a deeper understanding of how the brain works remains elusive. Michael Anderson's book provides a thought-provoking and far-ranging perspective on how nervous systems are organized, how distributed neural activity guides behavior, and how brain activity interfaces with the body and the surrounding environment. After Phrenology should be read by neuroscientists and cognitive scientists alike—indeed, by anyone interested in modern accounts of brain function.

    Olaf Sporns

    Distinguished Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University; author of Networks of the Brain and Discovering the Human Connectome

  • In this agenda-setting book, Anderson, who is one of the few people in a position to speak authoritatively about philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, presents the first book-length exploration of an alternative to both localist and globalist accounts of the neural units of cognition. Eagerly awaited by those who have followed Anderson's work, this book should be a revelation to anyone who believes that every mental operation has its own special brain area.

    Steven Horst

    Professor of Philosophy, Wesleyan University; author of Symbols, Computation, and Intentionality, Beyond Reduction, and Laws, Mind, and Free Will

  • Human neuroscience has been using 21st-century tools to investigate a 17th-century theory of the mind. Until now. Anderson provides his readers with front-row seats to the emerging paradigm shift in the human neurosciences. Modularity. Phrenology. Faculty psychology. These assumptions led neuroscientists to search in vain for a compartmentalized brain. With powerful metaphors, useful conceptual tools, and inspiring research findings, Anderson paints a picture of a highly interactive human brain and the sort of 21st-century neuroscience framework that is needed to explain how it creates a human mind.

    Lisa Feldman Barrett

    University Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Northeastern University

  • In this ground-breaking treatment, Michael Anderson argues for a vision of the brain as, at root, a dynamical system for the control of action. This has radical implications for how to think about the role of different neural regions and offers a promising way to blend neuroscientific research with insights from the study of embodied and socially situated cognition. Mindedness, Anderson argues 'is the activity of making the world a home.' The writing is fluid, the ideas compelling, and the overall vision unique. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the nature of mind and action.

    Andy Clark, FRSE

    Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh