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Geschwind, N. (1980). Neurological Knowledge and Complex Behaviors. Cognitive Science, 4, 185-193.

	author = 	{Norman Geschwind},
	title = 		{Neurological Knowledge and Complex Behaviors},
	journal =	{Cognitive Science},
	year = 		{1980},
	volume = 	{4},
	issue = 	{2},
	pages = 	{185 -- 193}

Author of the summary: Azhar Cheema, 2012, acheema1@connect.carleton.ca

Cite this paper for:

Herbert Simon said that most importantly Cognitive Science is the study of strategies of adaptation, specifically to changing and unpredictable environmental conditions. [p186]

Two biological fields that can aid Cognitive Science in the study of astonishing adaptive behaviors are that of immunology and of evolution. [p186]

The brain is not the ideal cognitive device due to biological limitations. The brain is not static and some may be superior at adapting to certain environmental changes while inferior at adapting to others, and the opposite may occur in other brains. The brain is also limited in size. It is limited in size at birth due to the size of the birth canal, in its final size due to the amount of blood needed, and therefore currently cannot be used maximally because of the lack of blood flow. [p187]

Better devices of the brain can be built as this field progresses. The best man-made devices do not need to be parallel to how they are made naturally, just as a plane does not resemble the flight of a bird. [p187]

Although the brain is not ideal, it is still the greatest adaptive model in existence. It is able to sustain certain invariants without any explicit exertion. Body temperature, blood pressure, and food intake remain amazingly constant regardless of environmental conditions. The brain also has the most excellent capability to learn, to store information of changes in the environment, and to learn new strategies. Humans are still the best at pattern recognition, classification, and creativity. [p188]

Most of the problems separating the neural sciences and the cognitive sciences are sociological rather than technical. The fear of the unknown and love for one’s own discipline is preventing the convergence. [p188] Neurological knowledge can also contribute to the development of Cognitive Science through the study of invertebrates. Their relatively simple nervous systems contain design principles which would expand our understanding of adaptivity greatly. [p189]

The brain has many built-in properties which are often mistaken for simply the effects of experience. For example, when the adult chimpanzee responds with fear at the sight of a snake, it is perceived that this is the result of experience. However, research has clearly shown that a baby chimpanzee that sees a snake for the first time also reacts with fear. Simon articulated that “Any system which has to learn everything on its own is simply too slow and inefficient.” Therefore, it is necessary for the presence of built-in properties. This can also be seen on a child who may take years to learn how to tie their shoe laces but can learn a much more complicated task like walking much faster. [p189]

In other experiments it was discovered that there are actually losses of built-in senses, rather than acquisitions of new ones. Nevertheless, the losses can also be deceiving. For example, a cat raised in the wild will no doubt attack a rat by going after its neck. However, when it was tested what a cat that was raised in a laboratory, that has never seen other cats attack a rat, would do, about half of them did not attack. The ones that did attack though also innately went after the throat of the rat. The reason the ones didn’t was because their built-in programs were inaccessible, yet still present. This was shown when John Flynn was able to place electrodes in certain areas of a cat’s brain which would cause it to attack the rat whereas when it was place elsewhere it would not. [p190]

Certain areas of the brain are specialized for certain kinds of knowledge. It was shown that children who suffered from syndromes requiring a complete removal of a cortex, that the ones who lost their left cortex completed linguistic tasks differently than ones who lost their right cortex, which were more similar to those in the normal control group. [p191]

General principles of neural circuits involved in complex adaptive behaviors: [p191]

What should be kept in mind by the cognitive scientist studying human behavior: [p192]

Geschwind predicts that the neurological sciences and the study of disordered cognitive function will have a progressing affect on the growth of Cognitive Science and appeals that both fields should progress together for the sake of mankind. [p193]

Summary author's notes:

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