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What Does Any Part of the Brain Do?

Dreams

This interesting article details Sarah Genon’s work on how to characterize the function of different brain regions! Via Discover

How can we know the function of a region of the brain? Have we been approaching the problem in the wrong way? An interesting new paper from German neuroscientists Sarah Genon and colleagues explores these questions.

According to Genon et al., neuroscientists have generally approached the brain from the standpoint of behavior. We ask: what is the neural basis of this behavioral or psychological function?

Traditionally, assigning functions to brain regions has mainly been based on conceptualizations of functions from many different disciplines that are interested in the study of the mind and behavior… ‘speech production’, ‘perspective taking’, and ‘emotional regulation’ are a few examples of these behavioral functions.

This “behavior-first” approach has revealed many associations between particular functions and particular brain regions. However, Genon et al. say, it has become clear that any given behavioral function involves more than one brain region, and it may be that there is no ‘necessary and sufficient brain area’ for any behavioral function.

So, the authors say, we may need to adopt a “brain region-first” perspective. Instead of looking for the neural basis of a behavior, we should instead be asking: what does this brain region do? What functions is it involved in?
For any brain region, we can think of many different behavioral functions, based on the perspective from which we consider this brain region. In practice, most of these behavioral functions can somehow be related to one another and seem to comprise a core computational function (i.e., an operation-function) that grounds all behavioral associations but remains latent and is not directly observed.

In other words, any brain region will be involved in many functions, but by triangulating between them we can (hopefully) arrive at the true core function of the region:

See more and see Sarah Genon’s research paper here!


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