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Evolving Concepts of "Hierarchy" in Systems Neuroscience

Burnston, Daniel and Haueis, Philipp (2020) Evolving Concepts of "Hierarchy" in Systems Neuroscience. Neural Mechanisms: New Challenges in Philosophy of Neuroscience.

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Abstract

The notion of “hierarchy” is one of the most commonly posited organizational principles in systems neuroscience. To this date, however, it has received little philosophical analysis. This is unfortunate, because the general concept of hi-erarchy ranges over two approaches with distinct empirical commitments, and whose conceptual relations remain unclear. We call the first approach the “rep-resentational hierarchy” view, which posits that an anatomical hierarchy of feed-forward, feed-back, and lateral connections underlies a signal processing hierarchy of input-output relations. Because the representational hierarchy view holds that unimodal sensory representations are subsequently elaborated into more categorical and rule-based ones, it is committed to an increasing de-gree of abstraction along the hierarchy. The second view, which we call “topo-logical hierarchy,” is not committed to different representational functions or degrees of abstraction at different levels. Topological approaches instead posit that the hierarchical level of a part of the brain depends on how central it is to the pattern of connections in the system. Based on the current evidence, we ar-gue that three conceptual relations between the two approaches are possible: topological hierarchies could substantiate the traditional representational hier-archy, conflict with it, or contribute to a plurality of approaches needed to un-derstand the organization of the brain. By articulating each of these possibili-ties, our analysis attempts to open a conceptual space in which further neuro-scientific and philosophical reasoning about neural hierarchy can proceed.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Burnston, Danieldburnsto@tulane.edu
Haueis, Philippphilipp.haueis@uni-bielefeld.de0000-0002-0935-9015
Additional Information: Authors appear in alphabetical order and contributed equally to this article.
Keywords: hierarchy, systems neuroscience, representation, topology, abstraction
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Perception
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Systems Neuroscience
Depositing User: Dr. Philipp Haueis
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2020 02:43
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2020 02:43
Item ID: 17598
Journal or Publication Title: Neural Mechanisms: New Challenges in Philosophy of Neuroscience
Publisher: Springer
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Perception
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Systems Neuroscience
Date: 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17598

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