, Volume 183, Issue 3, pp 339-373

First online:

Explanation and description in computational neuroscience

  • David Michael KaplanAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine Email author 

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The central aim of this paper is to shed light on the nature of explanation in computational neuroscience. I argue that computational models in this domain possess explanatory force to the extent that they describe the mechanisms responsible for producing a given phenomenon—paralleling how other mechanistic models explain. Conceiving computational explanation as a species of mechanistic explanation affords an important distinction between computational models that play genuine explanatory roles and those that merely provide accurate descriptions or predictions of phenomena. It also serves to clarify the pattern of model refinement and elaboration undertaken by computational neuroscientists.


Explanation Mechanism Computational models Computational neuroscience