Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary effort to understand the structures and functions of the brain and brain-mind relations. This effort results in an increasing amount of data, generated by sophisticated technologies. However, these data enhance our descriptive knowledge, rather than improve our understanding of brain functions. This is caused by methodological gaps both within and between subdisciplines constituting neuroscience, and the atomistic approach that limits the study of macro- and mesoscopic issues. Whole-brain measurement technologies do not resolve these issues, but rather (...) aggravate them by the complexity problem. The present article is devoted to methodological and epistemic problems that obstruct the development of human neuroscience. We neither discuss ontological questions nor review data, except when it is necessary to demonstrate a methodological issue. As regards intradisciplinary methodological problems, we concentrate on those within neurobiology and psychology. As regards interdisciplinary problems, we suggest that core disciplines of neuroscience can be integrated using systemic concepts that also entail human-environment relations. We emphasize the necessity of a meta-discussion that should entail a closer cooperation with philosophy as a discipline of systematic reflection. The atomistic reduction should be complemented by the explicit consideration of the embodiedness of the brain and the embeddedness of humans. The discussion is aimed at the development of an explicit methodology of integrative human neuroscience, which will not only link different fields and levels, but also help in understanding clinical phenomena. (shrink)
Although the brain enables us to perceive the external world and our body, it remains unknown whether brain processes themselves can be perceived. Brain tissue does not have receptors for its own activity. However, the ability of humans to acquire self-control of brain processes indicates that the perception of these processes may also be achieved by learning. In this study patients learned to control low-frequency components of their EEG: the so-called slow cortical potentials (SCPs). In particular ''probe'' sessions, the patients (...) estimated the quality of the SCP shift they had produced in the preceding trial. The correspondence between the recorded SCP amplitudes and the subjective estimates increased with training. The ability to perceive the SCPs was related to the ability to control them; this perception was not mediated by peripheral variables such as changes in muscle tonus and cannot be reduced to simple vigilance monitoring. These data provide evidence that humans can learn to perceive the neural activity of their brain. Alternative interpretations are discussed. (shrink)
A case of a particularly severe misbehavior in a review process is described. Two reviewers simply copied and pasted their critical comments from their previous reviews without reading the reviewed manuscript. The editor readily accepted the reviewers’ opinion and rejected the manuscript. These facts give rise to some general questions about possible factors affecting the ethical behavior of reviewers and editors, as well as possible countermeasures to prevent ethical violations.
Mindfulness-based interventions have proved effective in reducing various clinical symptoms and in improving general mental health and well-being. The investigation of the mechanisms of therapeutic change needs methods for assessment of mindfulness. Existing self-report measures have, however, been strongly criticized on various grounds, including distortion of the original concept, response bias, and other. We propose a psychophysiological method for the assessment of the mindfulness learned through time-limited mindfulness-based therapy by people who undergo meditation training for the first time. We use (...) the individual pre-post-therapy changes (dERPi) in the event-related brain potentials (ERPs) recorded in a passive meditation task as a measure of increased mindfulness. dERPi is computed through multivariate assessment of individual participant's ERPs. We tested the proposed method in a group of about 70 recurrently depressed participants, randomly assigned in 1.7:1 ratio to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) or cognitive therapy (CT). The therapy outcome was measured by the long-term change (dDS) relative to baseline in the depression symptoms (DS) assessed weekly, for 60 weeks, by an online self-report questionnaire. We found a strong, highly significant, negative correlation (r = -0.55) between dERPi (mean = 0.4) and dDS (mean = -0.7) in the MBCT group. Compared to this result, the relationship between dDS and the other (self-report) measures of mindfulness we used was substantially weaker and not significant. So was also the relationship between dERPi and dDS in the CT group. The interpretation of dERPi as a measure of increased mindfulness was further supported by positive correlations between dERPi and the other measures of mindfulness. In this study, we also replicated a previous result, namely, the increase (dLCNV) of the late contingent negative variation (LCNV) of the ERP in the MBCT group, but not in the control group (in this case, CT). We interpreted dLCNV as a measure of increased meditative concentration. The relationship between dLCNV and dDS was, however, very week, which suggests that concentration might be relatively unimportant for the therapeutic effect of mindfulness. The proposed psychophysiological method could become an important component of a "mindfulness test battery" together with self-report questionnaires and other newly developed instruments. (shrink)
Nell proposes another myth about human aggression, following thousands of old myths from Homer to Lorenz. Like all myths, this one might be partially true and partially false. However, the use of emotional and propagandistic effects, rather than evaluation of empirical results, obscures any attempt to describe the truth about cruelty. It is … full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.
Life History Theory predicts a monotonous relationship between affluence and the rate of innovations and strong correlations within a cluster of behavioral features. Although both predictions can be true in specific cases, they are incorrect in general. Therefore, the author's explanations may be right, but they do not prove LHT and cannot be generalized to other apparently similar processes.
Neuroconstructivism is a hybrid of two incompatible philosophical traditions: a radical idealism insisting upon the free activity of the Subject; and a radical materialistic anthropomorphism, which ascribes inherent properties of humans (e.g., the ability to construct) to nonhuman objects or body parts (e.g., the brain). The two traditions can be combined only by obscuring or confusing the basic notions.
The model presented in the target article is biased towards a cognitive-symbolic understanding of language, thus ignoring its other important aspects. Possible relationships of this cognitive-symbolic subsystem to pragmatics and prosody of language are discussed in the first part of the commentary. In the second part, the issue of a purely social versus biological mechanisms for transition from protolanguage to properly language is considered.
Although Steeles & Belpaeme's (S&B) results may be useful for development of technical devices, their significance for behavioral sciences is very limited. This is because the question the authors asked was “Why do people use similar words in a similar way?” rather than “How can similar words stand for similar experience?” The main problem is not shared word usage, but shared references.
Any neurobiological model claiming explanation of a complex human phenomenon should start with an explicit definition of the explanandum. If a classical intensional definition is impossible, we can use a descriptive definition by listing necessary criteria. This commentary suggests four meta-criteria that different proposed criteria of consciousness should fulfill: phenomenological consensus, empirical evidence, domain specificity, and non-circularity.