Information Processing and the Cerebral Hemispheres

  • Morris Moscovitch
Part of the Handbook of Behavioral Neurobiology book series (HBNE, volume 2)


An information-processing approach to cerebral function is not altogether new. It would not be distorting the truth too much to say that the initial functional wiring diagrams of the cortex that appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries bear more than a superificial resemblance to the flow diagrams that are still in vogue in many circles in cognitive psychology (see Fig. 1). Admittedly, some of the early neurological “localizers” or “diagram makers” had, by our standards, unsophisticated views of psychology and a simplistic notion of the physiological and philsophical problems regarding the localization of function in the nervous system. In fact, some of the functional subsystems, such as writing, reading, and music centers, which they localized in the cortex may remind us more of phrenology than of current information-processing systems. Nevertheless, if we ignore the surface details and terminology of those early functional-anatomical models and attend, instead, to the general assumptions concerning the organization of cognitive processes that underlie them, we will notice a kinship to modern information-processing theory. The early neurologists viewed cognition as the outcome of interactions among functionally and structurally separable subsystems whose operations, to put it in today’s terms, transform, decode, classify, interpret, store, retrieve, and produce information. The purpose of their enterprise was to fractionate cognitive behavior into the appropiate subsystems, describe their mode of operation, and determine the nature of their interaction. These assumptions and program of research apply equally well to proponents of the information-processing approach to cognition.


Left Hemisphere Cerebral Hemisphere Semantic Memory Proactive Interference Hemispheric Asymmetry 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morris Moscovitch
    • 1
  1. 1.Erindale CollegeUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

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