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Optogenetics, Pluralism, and Progress

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Optogenetic techniques are described as “revolutionary” for the unprecedented causal control they allow neuroscientists to exert over neural activity in awake-behaving animals. In this article, I demonstrate by means of a case study that optogenetic techniques will only illuminate causal links between the brain and behavior to the extent that their error characteristics are known and, further, that determining these error characteristics requires (1) comparison of optogenetic techniques with techniques having well-known error characteristics (methodological pluralism) and (2) consideration of the broader neural and behavioral context in which the targets of optogenetic interventions are situated (perspectival pluralism).

Cognitive Sciences
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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The author would like to thank Wendy Parker and an anonymous referee for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. Thanks also to Marshall Abrams and members of the audience at the PSA 2016 symposium on Optogenetics and Control over Neural Systems for very helpful discussion.


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