Top-down and/or Bottom-up Causality: The Notion of Relatedness in the Human Brain

  • Kim C. Wende
  • Andreas Jansen
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Cognitive Neurodynamics book series (ICCN)


There is an unsettled debate in neuroscience on the question of neural processes underlying impressions of causality. Some favor perceptual (bottom-up), others cognitive/inferential (top-down) approaches. We here try to disentangle and apply new definitions to the functional categories “cognition” and “perception,” based on anatomically distinct neural processing systems in the human brain. Especially, the perceptual domain is not well defined, because it spans across “sensory”/morphological domains (non-lateralized) to “higher perceptual” domains (crossing of hemispheres in the visual cortex and correspondingly in the visual domain). Top-down influences very likely occur at different stages of neural information processing. Corresponding mental functions (sensing, perceiving, interpreting) might be integrated into one type of event during meaningful (meta-)cognition with extreme ends of the information dimension (0/1, causal/noncausal, or even/odd). We suggest that top-down “causation” and bottom-up “agency” are complimentary processes interacting across functional modalities and thereby forming one “unit” of explicit conscious experience/one “momentum” (Michotte in The perception of causality. Basic Books, Oxford, 1963 [1]; Kant in Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1781 [2]).


Causality Perception Cognition Consciousness Brain–mind problem Human Language 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Neurosciences IoNs, Groupe COSYUniversité catholique de Louvain UCLBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Brain-imaging, Clinic for Psychiatry and PsychotherapyPhilipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany

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