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Prog Neurobiol. 2001 Dec;65(6):499-543.

Perception and memory in neuroscience: a conceptual analysis.

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The Neurobiology Laboratory, Department of Physiology, Institute for Biomedical Research, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Sydney, Australia.


Neuroscientists, in the last half of the 20th century, provided major insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms associated with seeing and remembering. We first identify some of the most important of these discoveries. This is done along lines familiar to neuroscientists who have read many of the recent books and reviews that provide an overview of neuroscientific discoveries. In general, these emphasize the scientific contributions this discipline has made to our understanding of the mechanisms that give rise to the psychological attributes of humans and other animals. In the next sections, we examine the claims made in these overviews; in particular, those by the standard-bearers of neuroscience, in an attempt to clarify what can and what cannot be justified in these claims. This requires a conceptual analysis of a kind that is unfamiliar to most neuroscientists. Our analysis begins with consideration of the conceptual confusions that ensue when neuroscientists attribute seeing, remembering and other psychological attributes to the brain rather than to the creature whose brain it is. Subsequently, we outline what we take to be the appropriate conceptual scheme for neuroscientists to adopt.

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