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Précis of After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain

  • Michael L. Anderson (a1)


Neural reuse is a form of neuroplasticity whereby neural elements originally developed for one purpose are put to multiple uses. A diverse behavioral repertoire is achieved by means of the creation of multiple, nested, and overlapping neural coalitions, in which each neural element is a member of multiple different coalitions and cooperates with a different set of partners at different times. Neural reuse has profound implications for how we think about our continuity with other species, for how we understand the similarities and differences between psychological processes, and for how best to pursue a unified science of the mind. After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain (2014; henceforth After Phrenology in this Précis) surveys the terrain and advocates for a series of reforms in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The book argues that, among other things, we should capture brain function in a multidimensional manner, develop a new, action-oriented vocabulary for psychology, and recognize that higher-order cognitive processes are built from complex configurations of already evolved circuitry.

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