Rethinking the cognitive revolution from a neural perspective: How overuse/misuse of the term ‘cognition’ and the neglect of affective controls in behavioral neuroscience could be delaying progress in understanding the BrainMind

Department of Psychology and J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind and Behavior, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43402, USA.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (Impact Factor: 10.28). 02/2011; 35(9):2026-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.02.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Words such as cognition, motivation and emotion powerfully guide theory development and the overall aims and goals of behavioral neuroscience research. Once such concepts are accepted generally as natural aspects of the brain, their influence can be pervasive and long lasting. Importantly, the choice of conceptual terms used to describe and study mental/neural functions can also constrain research by forcing the results into seemingly useful 'conceptual' categories that have no discrete reality in the brain. Since the popularly named 'cognitive revolution' in psychological science came to fruition in the early 1970s, the term cognitive or cognition has been perhaps the most widely used conceptual term in behavioral neuroscience. These terms, similar to other conceptual terms, have potential value if utilized appropriately. We argue that recently the term cognition has been both overused and misused. This has led to problems in developing a usable shared definition for the term and to promotion of possible misdirections in research within behavioral neuroscience. In addition, we argue that cognitive-guided research influenced primarily by top-down (cortical toward subcortical) perspectives without concurrent non-cognitive modes of bottom-up developmental thinking, could hinder progress in the search for new treatments and medications for psychiatric illnesses and neurobehavioral disorders. Overall, linkages of animal research insights to human psychology may be better served by bottom-up (subcortical to cortical) affective and motivational 'state-control' perspectives, simply because the lower networks of the brain are foundational for the construction of higher 'information-processing' aspects of mind. Moving forward, rapidly expanding new techniques and creative methods in neuroscience along with more accurate brain concepts, may help guide the development of new therapeutics and hopefully more accurate ways to describe and explain brain-behavior relationships.

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