Re: Nothing succeeds like success

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Wed, 09 Sep 1998 10:37:16 +0200

Date: Wed, 09 Sep 1998 10:37:16 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Nothing succeeds like success


> On Mon, 07 Sep 1998 19:06:14 -0400 Michael Best <>
> wrote:
> > The behaviorist, as exemplified by Gatherer, are
> > overly pessimistic about the progress made on the neuroscience front.
> > Real progress in neuroethology and indeed neuroecology now allows
> > researchers to trace certain behavioral states at the neuronal level in
> > animal models.
> That _is_ the kind of evidence that would knock me off my perch. Do
> you have any references?
> Derek

In addition to Michael Best's examples, here is a very, very, very limited
exerpt of new insights in the working of the mind. I even came up with
evidence for the existence of grandmother cells, which had been disclaimed.

1. One of my favourites comes from information of John Skoyles, on the
existence of Rizzolatti cells.
See note 1 of our publication on the origin of language:
Rizzolatti, G., L. Fadiga, V. Gallese, & L. Fogassi. 1996. Premotor cortex
and the recognition of motor actions. Brain Res. Cogn. Brain Res. 3: 131-141.

"In area F5 of monkey premotor cortex there are neurons that discharge both
when the monkey performs an action and when he observes similar actions made
by another monkey or by the experimenter. We report here some of the
properties of these 'mirror' neurons and we propose that their activity
'represents' the observed action. We posit, then, that this motor
representation is at the basis of the understanding of motor events."

2. Book review of
Brain, Vision, Memory: tales in the history of neuroscience. C.G. Gross,
1998. MIT Press.
in Nature 394: 143 by J.C. Marshall (1998):
'A busy experimental neuroscientist, Gross first came to fame as the
discoverer of cells in the macaque's infero-temporal cortex that respond
selectively to the image of a monkey's hand - not quite 'grandmother cells'
(which would respond only to the face of one's grandmother), but close
enough.' Actually true grandmother cells, which Derek disclaims to exist.

3. News and views by C. Bargmann. 1996. From the nose to the brain. Nature
384: 512, discussing Mombaerts, P. et al. 1996. Cell 87: 675-686.
'Do two people perceive the same thing when they say that jasmine smells
floral?' In other words, is information from the olfactory system organized
similarly in different individuals? Mombaerts and colleagues argue that it
is. They have used elegant mouse genetic methods to tackle the question and
their results raise the intriguing possibility that the olfactory receptor
proteins themselves help to organize a map of olfactory information as it
flows from the nose to the olfactory bulb in the brain.'

4. News and views by J. Lisman. 1998. What makes the brain's tickers tock in
Nature 394: 132, discussing recent work of Fishan A. et al. 1998. Nature 394:
186 and Draguhn, A. et al. 1998. Nature 394: 189.

'The most widely accepted hypothesis about the function of 40-Hz oscillations
is that they reflect the synchronization of cell firing that 'binds' together
the elementary features of an object. Consider a simplified example in which
there are three neuronal feature-detectors that respond to round, red and
yellow, respectively. When a lemon is present, the yellow and round cells
fire synchronously. By detection this synchrony, downstream neurons could
'know' that a lemon is present. Oscillations may also 'segment' information
if more than one object is present. For example, if both an apple and a lemon
are present, the cells representing these objects fire at different phases.'

Are these examples of Dawkinian B memes (units of information residing in the
brain)? Possibly some, although I do not claim that, but it shows what a
tremendous amount of insights science has gathered in recent years about the
detailed working of our mind, in opposition to the claim of Derek that we
virtually know nothing about it.

> ===============================================================
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This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)