Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience

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Hughlings Jackson was born on 4 April as the youngest son among three other sons and one daughter of a farmer and brewer and was raised without direct influence of his mother, who died when he was only 1 year old: Taylor, , p. At the young age of 15, John Hughlings Jackson already demonstrated hints of what would eventually become his lifelong passion, as he ended his early years of formal education and began informal studies as an apprentice in the household of two physicians, father and son, in a family named Anderson the elder of whom was also a lecturer at York Medical School York and Steinberg, , p.

Through the years, Hughlings Jackson began to put together the pieces of the complex puzzle of human nature and thought through his own careful examination, detailed logging and analysis of patients who presented with focal lesions causing epilepsy, hemiplegia, and often loss of speech aphasia. Perhaps it was the desperate need for a more systematic method of diagnosis as one might infer from the writings of York and Steinberg, , p.

John Hughlings Jackson's evolutionary neurology: a unifying framework for cognitive neuroscience.

This led to his proposal that the brain evolved with increasingly higher levels of re-representation of basic sensorimotor representations. According to this view, sensory impressions and representations of bodily movements are embedded in more complex structures and processes. I, pp.

II, pp. These mixed patterns of categorization and description, uninformed by a unifying theoretical structure, were scattered throughout the burgeoning writing on psychology and neurology of his time. He then illustrated his views with well-chosen examples. In recovery, as the speech functions are reorganized, both the relevance of what is said, and normal propositional use of speech, reassert themselves in the control of the words uttered.

While the scope of the present review focuses primarily on his doctrine of evolution and dissolution, Hughlings Jackson also developed a number of doctrines that have been very influential, and which we touch on here only briefly.


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His ideas about compensation and neural recovery naturally stemmed from his view of brain organization and accounted for many of the otherwise paradoxical examples of recovery he witnessed in his patients York and Steinberg, , pp. In many ways, Hughlings Jackson boldly went against the current flow of physiology, where the concept of equipotentiality of the brain was rather common as promulgated by Pierre Flourens, whose primary sources are written in French: York and Steinberg, , p.

However, just as important are the implications of his ideas about the workings of the human brain during health, reflecting its highest level processes evolution. But this requires an appreciation of basic sensorimotor interactions with the world around us, without which we cannot reasonably postulate higher level networks that enable non-automatic, but nevertheless effective, adaptations of human organisms to a complex and ever-changing environment. Consistent with the framework offered by Hughlings Jackson, recent research on embodied cognition emphasizes pre-existing sensorimotor function as the basis of higher order cognitive i.

Many of these findings ostensibly pose contradictions rather than unified models but we believe they can be usefully informed and integrated by the evolutionary and developmental framework that Hughlings Jackson favoured. Here we sketch three areas on the brain— right temporoparietal junction, superior temporal sulcus, and inferior frontal gyrus—as examples in which an integrating framework of the type Hughlings Jackson offered will greatly enhance ongoing theory and research in cognitive neuropsychology. For example, using functional MRI, Young and Saxe reported increases in the response of right temporoparietal junction with influences from beliefs relevant to exculpation of an agent who has accidentally caused harm.

In related work, Benedetti et al. That study pointed to impaired performance in people with schizophrenia on tasks involving theory of mind and empathy, together with neural responses on functional MRI, which differed from normal controls in areas of the right posterior superior temporal lobe BA 22, 42 , left temporoparietal junction and temporal pole BA 38, 39 , along with some structural anomalies in the medial prefrontal areas found to be crucial for social cognition BA Other researchers implicate these areas in intermodal sensory and perceptual processing where apparent conflict exists Papeo et al.

Using completely different tasks, other functional MRI research has focused on the right temporoparietal junction in relation to effects of musical improvization involving the generation of novel musical-motor sequences. Berkowitz and Ansari demonstrated that, during improvization, musicians showed marked deactivation of the right temporoparietal junction whereas non-musicians did not. The authors implicated the involvement of right temporoparietal junction in an attentional network operating on bottom-up sensory information.

In this manner, deactivation might be related to inhibition of bottom-up attention so that top-down and goal-related attention can better operate. In other words, there is high-level responsivity to real-time constraints and complex information processes involving many different inputs, all of which have factored into the ideational representations guiding behaviour. Thus, his model potentially integrates the puzzling diversity of roles vested in the relatively circumscribed brain area, right temporoparietal junction strategically positioned at the junction of visual, sensorimotor, auditory and memory-related brain regions by noting the need for inclusive re-integration of current contextual material and pre-existing data patterns in responding to a complex situation.

Indeed, many contemporary brain scientists are actively studying evolved systems in the human brain that are specialized for understanding of others and social interactions. Within a similar context of theory of mind, one might consider another complicated brain area, often referred to as the region of the superior temporal sulcus, which involves cortex within the sulcus and adjacent surfaces including the middle temporal gyrus.

Earlier studies on monkeys with bilateral lesions to this region revealed deficits in discriminating between angles of eye gaze, and right superior temporal sulcus lesions are thought to be the basis of prosopagnosia Campbell et al. Later functional MRI studies revealed posterior superior temporal sulcus region activation with passive viewing of gaze shifts Hoffman and Haxby, However, Materna et al.

As others have pointed out, there is a segregated representation of the biological motion of body parts in the posterior temporal cortex including eyes, mouth and hands; Pelphrey et al. The collected findings essentially reveal a highly elaborated system that allows the human organism to develop social cognition by drawing on basic sensorimotor processes involved in detecting biological motion and integrating the results with internally originating proprioceptive and motor information.

As a result, the diversity of areas and contributory processes discussed by contemporary researchers can be usefully stitched together. One of the most influential theories of the neural basis of action recognition is the concept of a mirror neuron system. It would not be surprising if all complex brain networks active during social interactions have, at their basis, simple sensorimotor representations of the human body and especially the face.

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Ramsey and Hamilton , discussing the idea of action perception and the attribution of goals to others, supports the view of an evolved integrated re-representation system that incorporates sensorimotor patterns from both inner and outer perceptual fields into wider adaptive functional assemblies that also use information about object properties, actions and mental state inferences processed in areas beyond those usually included in the mirror neuron system.

Taken together, these remarks point towards the thoughts explored by Lev Vygotsky and the neuropsychology of Luria and the work of current theorists of embodied cognition. I , we may call him B, is I, we may call him A, minus the use of the higher nervous arrangements of the higher centres dissolution , and plus increased activity of the next lower, Evolution remaining.

This idea is ripe for application to the findings in blindsight and other conditions involving partial informational access by the conscious patient and disconnexional defects including the neural disruptions of callosotomy. Hughlings Jackson, however, always reflected on his observations in the clinic and related them to evolutionary and ontogenetic thinking so that they represented far more than mere data; they were insights into human cognition and its neuroscientific underpinnings, carefully integrated according to a theoretical framework that focused on the aspects of our function that we call higher, or mental, or conscious, and these insights enhance our understanding of human neuropsychology.

Students enrolled in the cognitive neuroscience program will gain a thorough understanding of the intellectual issues that drive this rapidly growing field, as well as expertise in the major methods for cognitive brain research. The overarching aim of the program is to train students in innovative approaches to research on higher human brain functions, including, but not limited to, perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, motor control, executive functions, consciousness and the evolution of mental processes.

The overall goals of her research program are to understand how brain systems for motivation support learning and to use mechanistic understanding of how behavior changes biology to meet the challenge of developing new therapies appropriate for early interventions for mental illness. His research focuses on understanding how emotional events modulate cognitive processes in the human brain, aiming to identify brain regions that encode emotional properties of sensory stimuli, and to show how these regions interact with neural systems supporting social cognition, executive control, and learning and memory.

Cognition & Evolutionary Psychology

Core faculty members in CCN are a diverse group of investigators defined by a shared interest in cognition and its underlying biological mechanisms. Faculty research interests include perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, decision making, social interaction, morality, motor control, executive function, and the evolution and development of mental processes.

Research techniques pursed in CCN include functional magnetic resonance imaging, single cell recording, genomics, field studies of behavior, event-related potential recordings, transcranial magnetic stimulation, eye-tracking, psychophysics, and behavioral economics. The core faculty is augmented by a larger number of CCN affiliates who share these interests and interact frequently with CCN core faculty.

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Neuroimaging is a vital component of a variety of research studies at DIBS. In this program, we aim to rethink neuroscience from the viewpoint of adaptation, and teach neuroscience as the science of human beings. Lectures are thus given to develop understanding of human cognition along the axes of language, society and behavior, both from the analytic viewp of information processing, and the integrated view of evolution. This kind of program is unique, not only domestically but also internationally.

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