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The Death of the Cortical Column? Patchwork structure and conceptual retirement in neuroscientific practice

Haueis, Philipp (2020) The Death of the Cortical Column? Patchwork structure and conceptual retirement in neuroscientific practice. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In 1981, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for their research on cor-tical columns—vertical bands of neurons with similar functional properties. This success led to the view that “cortical column” refers to the basic building block of the mammalian neocor-tex. Since the 1990s, however, critics questioned this building block picture of “cortical col-umn” and debated whether this concept is useless and should be replaced with successor con-cepts. This paper inquires which experimental results after 1981 challenged the building block picture and whether these challenges warrant the elimination “cortical column” from neuroscientific discourse. I argue that the proliferation of experimental techniques led to a patch-work of locally adapted uses of the column concept. Each use refers to a different kind of cortical structure, rather than a neocortical building block. Once we acknowledge this diverse-kinds picture of “cortical column”, the elimination of column concept becomes unnecessary. Rather, I suggest that “cortical column” has reached conceptual retirement: although it cannot be used to identify a neocortical building block, column research is still useful as a guide and cautionary tale for ongoing research. At the same time, neuroscientists should search for alternative concepts when studying the functional architecture of the neocortex.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Haueis, Philippphilipp.hauei@uni-bielefeld.de0000-0002-0935-9015
Keywords: Cortical column, conceptual development, history of neuroscience, patchwork, eliminativism, conceptual retirement
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Systems Neuroscience
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr. Philipp Haueis
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2021 15:42
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2021 15:42
Item ID: 18192
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2020.09.010
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Systems Neuroscience
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 24 September 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18192

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