[-empyre-] decade of the plastic brain

Lucette Cysique lcysique at stvincents.com.au
Wed Sep 10 18:44:34 EST 2008

I will try to go beyond some of my "P. Feyerabend attitudes" that were a bit part of my introduction.

To draw from what Michelle sent out and how I understand it (mind/brain centricity referring to dualism), I would add the following:

People and theories that inform some of my epistemological ideas and I hope will get us away from dualism: complexity theories (e.g., Edgar Morin) anti-dualistic philosophy (J. Searle) as well as theory of emergence and self-organization (chaos theory..). Although the omnipresence of chaos theory from economic to weather sciences is “suspicious”, I think it is one way to overcome dualism.

I do remember Art work a decade ago drawing on the mechanistic appraisal of brain functions..

Then to give my perspective on what are the new "hot topics" like computer/brain were. I see 4 hot topics at the moment:

I would agree that brain adaptability is one of the new hot topics and framework in cognitive neurosciences. 10 years ago it was still taught that we were born with a set of neurons and that was it. The findings around stems cells research, neurobiology and the study of neural plasticity in animals (mainly rats) have tremendously changed some of the basic concepts. But I believe that evidence of adaptability needs to be demonstrated over the long-term. In other words, when and how adaptability is happening or not happening. Also the potential danger of "stem cells cure" should not be overlooked and among them brain tumors, motor dysfunctions and even personality changes (I am actually trying to finish a sci-fi novel that is centered around some of these questions).

The other hot topic I think is the great variability between brains and how much it challenges conventional statistics which are the most used in cognitive neurosciences. This leads to understanding how individuals change over time (rejoining the idea of plasticity, deterioration or improvement). A big effort is necessary here. One thing to keep in mind is that the overwhelming majority of MRI-based imaging are derived from groups studies (and often small sample) in cross-sectional design. Individualised longitudinal studies will change some of our understanding I believe.

A coming hot topic I think is within the social neurosciences is the cultural relativity/relevance of certain emotional/cognitive abilities.

Lastly, the development of new drugs that may arise from changes in the epistemological framework in cognitive neurosciences. There have not been any big discoveries in this area since the 50s and the initial discovery of psychiatric drugs were made by chance.

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