Learning Sciences of Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, +7500 Readings

Archive for the ‘Cognition’ Category

Cortex and Mind: Unifying Cognition

This book presents a unique synthesis of the current neuroscience of cognition by one of the world’s authorities in the field. The guiding principle to this synthesis is the tenet that the entirety of our knowledge is encoded by relations, and thus by connections, in neuronal networks of our cerebral cortex. Cognitive networks develop by experience on a base of widely dispersed modular cell assemblies representing elementary sensations and movements. As they develop cognitive networks organize themselves hierarchically by order of complexity or abstraction of their content. Because networks intersect profusely, a neuronal assembly anywhere in the cortex can be part of many networks, and therefore many items of knowledge. All cognitive functions consist of neural transactions within and between cognitive networks. After reviewing the neurobiology and architecture of cortical networks (also named cognits), the author undertakes a systematic study of cortical dynamics in each of the major cognitive functions–perception, memory, attention, language, and intelligence. In this study, he makes use of a large body of evidence from a variety of methodologies, in the brain of the human as well as the nonhuman primate. The outcome of his interdisciplinary endeavor is the emergence of a structural and dynamic order in the cerebral cortex that, though still sketchy and fragmentary, mirrors with remarkable fidelity the order in the human mind.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

October 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Brain Networks and Cognitive Architectures

Most accounts of human cognitive architectures have focused on computational accounts of cognition while making little contact with the study of anatomical structures and physiological processes. A renewed convergence between neurobiology and cognition is well under way. A promising area arises from the overlap between systems/cognitive neuroscience on the one side and the discipline of network science on the other. Neuroscience increasingly adopts network tools and concepts to describe the operation of collections of brain regions. Beyond just providing illustrative metaphors, network science offers a theoretical framework for approaching brain structure and function as a multi-scale system composed of networks of neurons, circuits, nuclei, cortical areas, and systems of areas. This paper views large-scale networks at the level of areas and systems, mostly on the basis of data from human neuroimaging, and how this view of network structure and function has begun to illuminate our understanding of the biological basis of cognitive architectures.

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The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration

The idea that a specific brain circuit constitutes the emotional brain (and its corollary, that cognition resides elsewhere) shaped thinking about emotion and the brain for many years. Recent behavioral, neuropsychological, neuroanatomy, and neuroimaging research, however, suggests that emotion interacts with cognition in the brain. In this book, Luiz Pessoa moves beyond the debate over functional specialization, describing the many ways that emotion and cognition interact and are integrated in the brain. The amygdala is often viewed as the quintessential emotional region of the brain, but Pessoa reviews findings revealing that many of its functions contribute to attention and decision making, critical components of cognitive functions. He counters the idea of a subcortical pathway to the amygdala for affective visual stimuli with an alternate framework, the multiple waves model. Citing research on reward and motivation, Pessoa also proposes the dual competition model, which explains emotional and motivational processing in terms of their influence on competition processes at both perceptual and executive function levels. He considers the broader issue of structure-function mappings, and examines anatomical features of several regions often associated with emotional processing, highlighting their connectivity properties. As new theoretical frameworks of distributed processing evolve, Pessoa concludes, a truly dynamic network view of the brain will emerge, in which “emotion” and “cognition” may be used as labels in the context of certain behaviors, but will not map cleanly into compartmentalized pieces of the brain.

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Read also: The Cognitive-Emotional Brain

Written by Giorgio Bertini

June 3, 2015 at 8:39 am

Posted in Brains, Cognition, Emotions

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Culture and the Self – Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation

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People in different cultures have strikingly different construals of the self, of others, and of the interdependence of the two. These construals can influence, and in many cases determine, the very nature of individual experience, including cognition, emotion, and motivation. Many Asian cultures have distinct conceptions of individuality that insist on the fundamental relatedness of individuals to each other. The emphasis is on attending to others, fitting in, and harmonious interdependence with them. American culture neither assumes nor values such an overt connectedness among individuals. In contrast, individuals seek to maintain their independence from others by attending to the self and by discovering and expressing their unique inner attributes. As proposed herein, these construals are even more powerful than previously imagined. Theories of the self from both psychology and anthropology are integrated to define in detail the difference between a construal of the self as independent and a construal of the self as interdependent. Each of these divergent construals should have a set of specific consequences for cognition, emotion, and motivation; these consequences are proposed and relevant empirical literature is reviewed. Focusing on differences in self-construals enables apparently inconsistent empirical findings to be reconciled, and raises questions about what have been thought to be culture-free aspects of cognition, emotion, and motivation.

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Read also: Cultural neuroscience of the self: understanding the social grounding of the brain

Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Collective Action and the Collaborative Brain

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Humans are unique both in their cognitive abilities and in the extent of cooperation in large groups of unrelated individuals. How our species evolved high intelligence in spite of various costs of having a large brain is perplexing. Equally puzzling is how our ancestors managed to overcome the collective action problem and evolve strong innate preferences for cooperative behaviour. Here, I theoretically study the evolution of social-cognitive competencies as driven by selection emerging from the need to produce public goods in games against nature or in direct competition with other groups. I use collaborative ability in collective actions as a proxy for social-cognitive competencies. My results suggest that collaborative ability is more likely to evolve first by between-group conflicts and then later be utilized and improved in games against nature. If collaborative abilities remain low, the species is predicted to become genetically dimorphic with a small proportion of individuals contributing to public goods and the rest free-riding. Evolution of collaborative ability creates conditions for the subsequent evolution of collaborative communication and cultural learning.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

December 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

The Cognitive-Emotional Brain

The idea that a specific brain circuit constitutes the emotional brain and its corollary, that cognition resides elsewhere, has shaped thinking about emotion and the brain for many years. Recent behavioral, neuropsychological, neuroanatomy, and neuroimaging research, however, suggests that emotion is integrated with cognition in the brain. In The Cognitive-Emotional Brain, I describe the many ways that emotion and cognition are fundamentally integrated throughout the brain. 

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

November 20, 2014 at 8:06 am

Cognitive Integration, Enculturated Cognition and the Socially Extended Mind

Shaun Gallagher presents an interesting case for the social extension of mind. I argue that there is one way in which Gallagher can argue for social extension, which is continuous with an enculturated model of cognition, such as cognitive integration. This way requires us to think of the mind as extended by social/cultural practices that are specifically targeted at cognitive tasks. The other way in which Gallagher argues for social extension is that social institutions – such as museums or the law – are literal constituents of our minds. This second way involves a number of problems and objections and is inconsistent with an enculturated or practice-based approach. I conclude by urging Gallagher to endorse the first way.

I have argued that the cognitive integration model shows why our minds are socially extended, by presenting a phylogenetic and ontogenetic model of how we develop cognitive capabilities. The key to this model is the notion of cognitive practices. I have also argued that Gallagher’s account of social extension is too synchronic and flirts with concepts such as supervenience, which do not help him to make his case. I have suggested that he stick to making the case in terms of cognitive practices, but then he needs a fuller account of such practices and how they are able to transform our capabilities. Fortunately the integrationist model has already done this job.

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Read also: The Socially Extended Mind

Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The Frames of Cognition

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In his paper “Socially Extended Mind,” Shaun Gallagher aims to broaden the perspective of the philosophy of  cognitive science and to bring theoretical discussions to new grounds. However, I argue that such comprehensive attempt needs to be worked out and underpinned in more detail. I start by sketching the theoretical landscape, and continue by pointing out some ambiguities that are in need of further clarification. In the last part, I introduce a distinction between global and local frames of cognition and argue that the idea of a local frame can contribute to critical inquiry.

In several emerging approaches to the study of cognition, the idea of a non-arbitrary inner/outer distinction has come under attack. Mind and world are increasingly pictured as entangled, while the physical substrates that make up the mind are no longer assumed to be exclusively located in the brain and body of the individual. Positioning himself in this dynamic theoretical landscape, Shaun Gallagher aims to unite and develop claims by several ‘counterrevolutionary’ camps, to broaden the cognitive-scientific perspective and to contribute to critical social inquiry. However, in order to live up to these ambitious aims, a number of ambiguities have to be overcome and a number of issues have to be worked out in more detail. The suggestions and distinctions in this paper indicate ways in which some of these problems could be overcome.

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Read also:  The Socially Extended Mind

Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Social Brains, Simple Minds: does Social Complexity require Cognitive Complexity?

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The social brain hypothesis is a well-accepted and well-supported evolutionary theory of enlarged brain size in the non-human primates. Nevertheless, it tends to emphasize an anthropocentric view of social life and cognition. This often leads to confusion between ultimate and proximate mechanisms, and an over-reliance on a Cartesian, narratively structured view of the mind and social life, which in turn lead to views of social complexity that are congenial to our views of ourselves, rather than necessarily representative of primate social worlds. In this paper, we argue for greater attention to embodied and distributed theories of cognition, which get us away from current fixations on ‘theory of mind’ and other high-level anthropocentric constructions, and allow for the generation of testable hypotheses that combine neurobiology, psychology and behaviour in a mutually reinforcing manner.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

The Cognitive Behavioral Miracle – Controlling your Emotions

The principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are based on a very simple idea: we feel according to what we think, in other words, our thoughts and cognitive constructions are at the root of our emotions and behavior patterns. CBT is based on three fundamental propositions:

  • Cognitive activity affects behavior;
  • Cognitive activity may be monitored and altered; and
  • Desired behavior change may be effected through cognitive change.

CBT is a fundamentally empowering approach, in that it has successfully identified certain ways of thinking that can make the difference between sanity and insanity, between happiness and unhappiness, and it has developed a variety of techniques to teach patients to substitute these dysfunctional patterns of thinking, which are often at the root of their problems.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

April 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Cognition, Emotions

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