The neural shadow-play: A metaphor for how we infer how the brain works from a variety of methods

Can we say that a particular brain area mediates some function? My answer to a good Quora question:

Understanding the brain is like understanding the shape of a very complex, dynamic and multifaceted object by looking at the shadows projected by it on a wall.  The color of the light source and its orientation with respect to the object (and the wall) will change the nature of the shadow. Different scientific techniques are like different light sources. Different experimental protocols are like different angles. We have to look at the sequence of shadows and imagine what the object’s actual form is — it is not possible to view this object simultaneously from all angles and with all illumination sources. So there is a degree of creativity and freedom in each person’s own conception of the true nature of the object. Nevertheless, the conception that scientists eventually agree on is likely to be one that tempers this freedom with rationality and responsibility.”

I elaborate on this here: http://neurologism.com/2013/09/27/in-neuroscience-how-accurate-is-it-to-say-that-a-brain-area-or-circuit-mediates-evaluates-or-is-the-seat-of-any-particular-face/

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About Yohan

I'm a neuroscience postdoc at the Neural Systems Laboratory in Boston University. My PhD was in Cognitive and Neural Systems, and my work involves computational neural network modeling, mostly of cognitive-emotional interaction. Apart from neuroscience, I spend a lot of time engaging with music, history, politics, philosophy, and religion.
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