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030818 – Brain specificity

Monday, August 18th, 2003

030818 – Brain specificity

Let’s not get carried away in the specificity of function assigned to various brain areas.  There’s a serious practical limit to what can be hard-wired in terms of responses to specific situations.  Here’s the problem: evolution can only provide the raw materials for dealing with reality.  The same problems face all animals.  You can build in a conspecific detector, but you can’t build in a grandmother detector because evolution does not know what your grandmother looks like.

It makes me nervous as hell to read about “executive processes.”  Maybe it’s because process to me is a term of art from computer science.  And it seems to me that an executive process requires an executive, which seems to invoke Dennett’s “Cartesian observer”.  Remember, the whole brain is a set of neural circuits with cycles and feedback.

When writers talk about a system that can activate or suppress motor activity, what I think about is the difference between mental imagery and acting out.