Neural Representation and Computation

  • Corey J. Maley
  • Gualtiero Piccinini
Reference work entry


Nervous systems perform amazing control functions, which include driving complex locomotive systems in real time. How do they do it? The best explanation neuroscientists have found is that nervous systems collect information from the organism and the environment, use that information to construct representations, and perform computations on such representations. The output of neural computations drives the organism. This article discusses what it means for nervous systems to carry information, to represent, and to perform computations.


Mutual Information Neural System Cognitive Capacity Place Cell Computational Neuroscience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allen, C., & Bekoff, M. (1995). Biological function, adaptation, and natural design. Philosophy of Science, 62(4), 609–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bigelow, J., & Pargetter, R. (1987). Functions. The Journal of Philosophy, 84(4), 181–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boden, M. (2006). The mind as machine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Borst, A., & Theunissen, F. E. (1999). Information theory and neural coding. Nature Neuroscience, 2(11), 947–957. doi:10.1038/14731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dretske, F. (1988). Explaining behavior: Reasons in a world of causes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Fodor (1981). Scientific American, 244, 114–25.Google Scholar
  7. Godfrey-Smith, P. (1994). A modern history theory of functions. Noûs, 28(3), 344–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Grice, H. P. (1957). Meaning. Philosophical Review, 66(3), 377–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hubel, D. H., & Wiesel, T. N. (1962). Receptive fields, binocular interaction and functional architecture in the cat’s visual cortex. The Journal of Physiology, 160, 106–154.Google Scholar
  10. Koch, C. (1999). Biophysics of computation: Information processing in single neurons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Marr, D., & Hildreth, E. (1980). Theory of edge detection. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 207, 187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Millikan, R. G. (1989). In defense of proper functions. Philosophy of Science, 56(2), 288–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Moser, E. I., Kropff, E., & Moser, M.-B. (2008). Place cells, grid cells, and the brain’s spatial representation system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 31(1), 69–89. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.31.061307.090723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Peirce, C. S. (1992). In N. Houser & C. Kloesel (Eds.), The essential peirce. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Piccinini, G. (2008). Computation without representation. Philosophical Studies, 137(2), 205–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Piccinini, G., & Bahar, S. (2013). Neural computation and the computational theory of cognition. Cognitive Science, 34, 453–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Piccinini, G., & Scarantino, A. (2011). Information processing, computation, and cognition. Journal of Biological Physics, 37(1), 1–38. doi:10.1007/s10867-010-9195-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Romo, R., Hernandez, A., Zainos, A., Brody, C., & Salinas, E. (2002). Exploring the cortical evidence of a sensory-discrimination process. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 357(1424), 1039–1051. doi:10.1098/rstb.2002.1100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shannon, C. E. (1948). A mathematical theory of communication. Bell System Technical Journal, 27, 379–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Strong, S. P., Koberle, R., van Steveninck, R. R. D. R., & Bialek, W. (1998). Entropy and information in neural spike trains. Physical Review Letters, 80(1), 197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Turing, A. M. (1936–7 [1965]). On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem (Repreinted in The Undecidable, pp. 116–154, by M. Davis, Ed., Ewlett, Raven).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Missouri – St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations