Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Episode 18: Does Neuroscience Need More Behavior?

For most people, the desire to study neuroscience comes from a desire to understand how, in some form, the brain leads to behavior. Generally, neuroscientists focus on the brain side of that relationship, but what obligation do they have to study behavior? Is it even possible to do proper neuroscience without a clear documenting of the behavior we seek to understand? We use a recent opinion article as a jumping off point to discuss these issues. In the paper, the authors argue that behavior is being neglected amongst neuroscientists and it must return to its status as "epistemologically prior." In particular, there are arguments for studying more natural behavior and quantifying behavior more precisely.

In this episode we explain our general sympathies with this argument, but question the extent to which change is required. Should all neuroscientists stop what they're doing and study behavior? Are modern technologies drawing scientists away from the "bigger questions"? No, probably not. But this article does bring up questions about how we, as individuals and as a field, choose what to study. Different implicit beliefs about what levels of explanation are satisfying lead to different research priorities. Progress in neuroscience would be best suited by neuroscientists who better understand these implicit beliefs in themselves and others.

We read:
Neuroscience Needs Behavior: Correcting a Reductionist Bias

And mentioned:
Episode 8: Neuroscience vs. Psychology
Episode 7: Optogenetics 

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here.

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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