The standard ontological framework of cognitive neuroscience: Some lessons from Broca’s area

Philosophical Psychology 30 (7):945-969 (2017)
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Since cognitive neuroscience aims at giving an integrated account of mind and brain, its ontology should include both neural and cognitive entities and specify their relations. According to what we call the standard ontological framework of cognitive neuroscience, the aim of cognitive neuroscience should be to establish one-to-one mappings between neural and cognitive entities. Where such entities do not yet closely align, this can be achieved by reforming the cognitive ontology, the neural ontology, or both. In order to assess the limits and the possibilities of the SOFCN, we will examine a paradigmatic case study: the concept of Broca’s area, which indicates an alleged mapping between the left inferofrontal gyrus and the production of language. We review evidence showing that such a mapping does not hold, thus calling into question either the status of Broca’s area or the validity of the SOFCN. We then propose some strategies for addressing the issue and suggest that it may be solved within the SOFCN by adopting both of the following strategies: first, more accurately defining the relevant neural structures and second, switching the focus of neural ontology from structures to events, individuated by a where conjoint with a how.



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Marco Viola
Università degli Studi di Torino