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Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

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Can there be such a thing as an impossible human language? A biologist could describe an impossible animal as one that goes against the physical laws of nature (entropy, for example, or gravity). Are there any such laws that constrain languages? In this book, Andrea Moro—a distinguished linguist and neuroscientist—investigates the possibility of impossible languages, searching, as he does so, for the indelible “fingerprint” of human language.

An Essay on the Content of Concepts

In cognitive science, conceptual content is frequently understood as the “meaning” of a mental representation. This position raises largely empirical questions about what concepts are, what form they take in mental processes, and how they connect to the world they are about. In Minds without Meaning, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn review some of the proposals put forward to answer these questions and find that none of them is remotely defensible.

Fifty years ago, neuroscientists thought that a mature brain was fixed like a fly in amber, unable to change. Today, we know that our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes. This concept of neuroplasticity has captured the imagination of a public eager for self-improvement—and has inspired countless Internet entrepreneurs who peddle dubious “brain training” games and apps.

In this book, Frank Guenther offers a comprehensive, unified account of the neural computations underlying speech production, with an emphasis on speech motor control rather than linguistic content. Guenther focuses on the brain mechanisms responsible for commanding the musculature of the vocal tract to produce articulations that result in an acoustic signal conveying a desired string of syllables.

Pain, although very common, is little understood. Worse still, according to Valerie Gray Hardcastle, both professional and lay definitions of pain are wrongheaded—with consequences for how pain and pain patients are treated, how psychological disorders are understood, and how clinicians define the mind/body relationship.

From Place Cells to Episodic Memory

There are currently two major theories about the role of the hippocampus, a distinctive structure in the back of the temporal lobe. One says that it stores a cognitive map, the other that it is a key locus for the temporary storage of episodic memories. A. David Redish takes the approach that understanding the role of the hippocampus in space will make it possible to address its role in less easily quantifiable areas such as memory.

Philosophers have traditionally assumed that the basic units of knowledge and understanding are concepts, beliefs, and argumentative inferences. In Cognitive Pluralism, Steven Horst proposes that another sort of unit—a mental model of a content domain—is the fundamental unit of understanding. He argues that understanding comes not in word-sized concepts, sentence-sized beliefs, or argument-sized reasoning but in the form of idealized models and in domain-sized chunks.

Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is experiencing a pragmatic turn away from the traditional representation-centered framework toward a view that focuses on understanding cognition as “enactive.” This enactive view holds that cognition does not produce models of the world but rather subserves action as it is grounded in sensorimotor skills. In this volume, experts from cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, robotics, and philosophy of mind assess the foundations and implications of a novel action-oriented view of cognition.

Philosophy and the Mind Sciences in the 21st Century

This collection offers the most comprehensive collection on consciousness, brain, and mind available. It gathers 39 original papers by leaders in the field followed by commentaries written by emerging scholars and replies by the original paper’s authors. Taken together, the papers, commentaries, and replies provide a cross-section of cutting-edge research in philosophy and cognitive science. Open MIND is an experiment in both interdisciplinary and intergenerational scholarship.

A Study in Cognitive Science

To communicate, speakers need to make it clear what they are talking about. The act of referring, which anchors words to things, is a fundamental aspect of language. In this book, Kees van Deemter shows that computational models of reference offer attractive tools for capturing the complexity of referring.

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