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Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series – Rosie Cowell
July 31 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
July 31, 2019, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Tobin Hall Room 423
Banishing Ghosts of Process from the Neural Machinery of Human Memory
Thanks to patients Phineas Gage and Henry Molaison, we have long known that behavioral control depends on the frontal lobes, whereas declarative memory depends on the medial temporal lobes. For decades, cognitive functions – behavioral control, declarative memory – have served as labels for characterizing the division of labor in cortex. This approach has made enormous contributions to understanding how the brain enables the mind. Today, the labels have diversified to include both broadly-defined cognitive functions (declarative memory, visual perception) and more circumscribed mental processes (recollection, familiarity, priming). But I will ask whether a process – a high-level mental phenomenon corresponding to an introspectively-identifiable cognitive event –is the most productive label for dissecting memory. For example, the process of recollection conflates a neurocomputational operation (pattern completion-based retrieval) with a class of representational content (associative, high-dimensional, episodic-like memories). I will argue that processes like recollection constitute inadequate labels for characterizing neural mechanisms. Instead, we should consider the component operations and representations of mnemonic processes in isolation, to understand the neural mechanisms of memory.