The Codes of Life

Volume 1 of the series Biosemiotics pp 357-377

Neural Coding in the Neuroheuristic Perspective

  • Alessandro E. P. VillaAffiliated withUniversité Joseph Fourier Grenoble

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In the study of the cerebral functions the concept of cognition could not be conceived independently of its neurobiological bases and its relationship to the mental representation, the logic, and the computational theories of the animal and human performances. The psychic entities which serve as elements of thought are symbolic images, more or less decipherable, which can be reproduced or combined willingly. This process evolves necessarily from the rupture of the temporal constraint, and appears similar to the aesthetic approach as a method of recognition. The term ‘coding’ usually refers to a substitution scheme where the message to be encoded is replaced by a special set of symbols, a far weaker metaphor, for representation of information in the nervous system, because substitution codes are essentially static as defined by fixed rules. A single quantitative measurement becomes unable to determine an axis of congruity and paradigms other than the classical ones should be considered for studying cerebral functions. In the neuroheuristic framework, the ‘result’ cannot be simply positive or negative because the process itself cannot be reduced to proficiency as such. The search for a neural coding per se is temporarily removed and replaced by the study of neural activity in the dynamical perspective. Some hints of the ‘neural catastrophe’ and challenges to come are discussed as open issues for future paths of investigation.