Traversing Scales of Brain and Behavioral Organization I: Concepts and Experiments
In this paper, and the ones following, we will present an approach to understanding behavior, brain and the relation between them. The present contribution provides a sketch of the strategy we have adopted toward the brain-behavior relation, notes its main tenets and applies them to a new and very specific experiment that uses large scale SQuID arrays to determine how the human brain times individual actions to environmental events. A second paper (Fuchs, Jirsa and Kelso this volume) will describe in more detail the various methods we and others have used to analyze and visualize the spatiotemporal activity of the brain and to extract relevant features from experimental data. Finally, in a third paper (Jirsa, Kelso and Fuchs this volume) we will spell out a theory, grounded in the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the cerebral cortex, that serves to connect neural and behavioral levels of description for the paradigmatic case of bimanual coordination. Our collective goal in these three papers is to set the stage for a principled move from phenomenological laws at the behavioral level to the specific neural mechanisms that underlie them. With respect to the history of science our approach is entirely conventional. Fundamentally, it begins with the identification of the macroscopic behavior of a system and attempts to derive it from a level below. Even for physical systems, however, the derivation of the “macro” from the “micro” is nontrivial. Only in the 70’s, for example, was it first possible to derive the behavior of ferromagnets (as described by Landau’s mean field theory) from more fundamental grounds using the so-called renormalization group method that earned Kenneth Wilson the Nobel Prize in 1982. Likewise, it took the genius of Hermann Haken to derive the behavior of a far from equilibrium system like the laser from quantum mechanics (Haken 1970). Thus, some 70 years after atoms were discovered did it become possible to derive macroscopic properties of certain materials and optical devices from a more microscopic basis, and only then using rather sophisticated mathematical techniques.
KeywordsBrain Activity Peak Velocity Movement Rate Movement Velocity Behavioral Level
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