•  379
    The life of the cortical column: opening the domain of functional architecture of the cortex
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (3). 2016.
    The concept of the cortical column refers to vertical cell bands with similar response properties, which were initially observed by Vernon Mountcastle’s mapping of single cell recordings in the cat somatic cortex. It has subsequently guided over 50 years of neuroscientific research, in which fundamental questions about the modularity of the cortex and basic principles of sensory information processing were empirically investigated. Nevertheless, the status of the column remains controversial tod…Read more
  •  138
    The “Human Brain Project” (HBP) is a large-scale European neuroscience and information communication technology (ICT) project that has been a matter of heated controversy since its inception. With its aim to simulate the entire human brain with the help of supercomputing technologies, the HBP plans to fundamentally change neuroscientific research practice, medical diagnosis, and eventually the use of computers itself. Its controversial nature and its potential impacts render the HBP a subject of…Read more
  •  130
    Connectomes as constitutively epistemic objects: critical perspectives on modeling in current neuroanatomy
    with Jan Slaby
    In Progress in Brain Research Vol 233: The Making and Use of Animal Models in Neuroscience and Psychiatry, . 2017.
    in a nervous system of a given species. This chapter provides a critical perspective on the role of connectomes in neuroscientific practice and asks how the connectomic approach fits into a larger context in which network thinking permeates technology, infrastructure, social life, and the economy. In the first part of this chapter, we argue that, seen from the perspective of ongoing research, the notion of connectomes as “complete descriptions” is misguided. Our argument combines Rachel Ankeny’s…Read more
  •  101
    Meeting the brain on its own terms
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 815 (8). 2014.
    In contemporary human brain mapping, it is commonly assumed that the “mind is what the brain does”. Based on that assumption, task-based imaging studies of the last three decades measured differences in brain activity that are thought to reflect the exercise of human mental capacities (e.g., perception, attention, memory). With the advancement of resting state studies, tractography and graph theory in the last decade, however, it became possible to study human brain connectivity without relying …Read more
  •  69
    What kinds of norms constrain mechanistic discovery and explanation? In the mechanistic literature, the norms for good explanations are directly derived from answers to the metaphysical question of what explanations are. Prominent mechanistic accounts thus emphasize either ontic or epistemic norms. Still, mechanistic philosophers on both sides agree that there is no sharp distinction between the processes of discovery and explanation. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect that ontic and epistemic …Read more
  •  66
    The notion of “hierarchy” is one of the most commonly posited organizational principles in systems neuroscience. To this date, however, it has received little philosophical analysis. This is unfortunate, because the general concept of hierarchy ranges over two approaches with distinct empirical commitments, and whose conceptual relations remain unclear. We call the first approach the “representational hierarchy” view, which posits that an anatomical hierarchy of feed-forward, feed-back, and late…Read more
  •  65
    In this paper, I argue that looking at the concept of neural function through the lens of cognition alone risks cognitive myopia: it leads neuroscientists to focus only on mechanisms with cognitive functions that process behaviorally relevant information when conceptualizing “neural function”. Cognitive myopia tempts researchers to neglect neural mechanisms with noncognitive functions which do not process behaviorally relevant information but maintain and repair neural and other systems of the b…Read more
  •  60
    This article explores how a nonreductionist account of Nietzsche's influence on Michel Foucault can enrich our understanding of key concepts in singular works of both philosophers. I assess this exegetical strategy by looking at the two dichotomies Apollinian/Dionysian and ars erotica/scientia sexualis in The Birth of Tragedy and volume 1 of The History of Sexuality, respectively. After exploring the relation between these two dichotomies, I link the science of sexuality to the Apollinian art in…Read more
  •  50
    While the past century of neuroscientific research has brought considerable progress in defining the boundaries of the human cerebral cortex, there are cases in which the demarcation of one area from another remains fuzzy. Despite the existence of clearly demarcated areas, examples of gradual transitions between areas are known since early cytoarchitectonic studies. Since multi-modal anatomical approaches and functional connectivity studies brought renewed attention to the topic, a better unders…Read more
  •  17
    A generalized patchwork approach to scientific concepts
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.
    Polysemous concepts with multiple related meanings pervade natural languages, yet some philosophers argue that we should eliminate them to avoid miscommunication and pointless debates in scientific discourse. This paper defends the legitimacy of polysemous concepts in science against this eliminativist challenge. My approach analyses such concepts as patchworks with multiple scale-dependent, technique-involving, domain-specific and property-targeting uses (patches). I demonstrate the generality …Read more
  •  13
    The death of the cortical column? Patchwork structure and conceptual retirement in neuroscientific practice
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 85 101-113. 2021.
    In 1981, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for their research on cortical columns—vertical bands of neurons with similar functional properties. This success led to the view that “cortical column” refers to the basic building block of the mammalian neocortex. Since the 1990s, however, critics questioned this building block picture of “cortical column” and debated whether this concept is useless and should be replaced with successor concepts. This paper inquires which experim…Read more
  •  12
    Vagueness and Mechanistic Explanation in Neuroscience
    Croatian Journal of Philosophy 13 (2): 251-275. 2013.
    The problem of fuzzy boundaries when delineating cortical areas is widely known in human brain mapping and its adjacent subdisciplines . Yet, a conceptual framework for understanding indeterminacy in neuroscience is missing, and there has been no discussion in the philosophy of neuroscience whether indeterminacy poses an issue for good neuroscientific explanations. My paper addresses both these issues by applying philosophical theories of vagueness to three levels of neuroscientific research, na…Read more