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Séminaire PhilBio - 09 - Denis Forest
Notre invité sera Denis Forest, Professeur à l'Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (IHPST). Son intervention portera sur le sujet suivant:
"What’s the point of having a nervous system? Models in neurobiology and life’s neural strategy"
Neuroscientists routinely describe neural mechanisms in their endeavor to explain the behavior and the cognitive achievements of animals. But in his Behavior of the lower organisms, H. S. Jennings already spoke of “the necessity of guarding against overrating the importance of the nervous system” (Jennings, 1906). Animals that do not possess a neural system (like sponges) exhibit some varieties of genuine behavior. It has recently been argued that unicellular organisms like Physarum polycephalum are able to learn, while learning is a cognitive activity that we usually explain with the working of some kind of neural machinery (Boisseau et al, 2016). We are forced to reconsider life’s neural strategy among non-neural ones.
The talk will consider three kinds of models of what neural systems do: a) input- output models (Parker, 1919; Jekely, 2011), b) internal coordination models (Keijzer, Duijn and Lyon, 2013) and c) forward, that is, predictive models (von Holst and Mittelstaedt, 1950; Hohwy, 2014). I shall raise questions about the nature and purpose of such models, in reference to Marr’s idea of computational theory (Marr, 1980). I shall ask what the contribution of these models to our understanding of the evolution of nervous systems and brains may be. Finally, I’ll sketch what the relationships between modelling in neuroscience and philosophy of neuroscience could be, in the spirit of Chang’s idea of complementary science (Chang, 2004).