PhilSci Archive

Information and the function of neurons

Burock, Marc (2011) Information and the function of neurons. [Preprint]

information_and_the_function_of_neurons.pdf - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (217kB)


Many of us consider it uncontroversial that information processing is a natural function of the brain. Since functions in biology are only won through empirical investigation, there should be a significant body of unambiguous evidence that supports this functional claim. Before we can interpret the evidence, however, we must ask what it means for a biological system to process information. Although a concept of information is generally accepted in the neurosciences without critique, in other biological sciences applications of information, despite careful analysis, remain controversial. In this work I will review classical stimulus-response studies in neuroscience and use Claude Shannon’s mathematical information theory as a starting point to interpret information processing as a function of the brain. I will illustrate a disanalogy between Shannon’s communication model (source, encode, channel, receiver, decode) and neural systems, and will argue that the neural code is not very code-like in comparison to genetic and engineered codes. I suggest that we have conflated the act of representing neuroscientific facts—which we do to summarize and communicate our findings with others—with taking experimental facts to be representations.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: function, evidence, information theory, neuroscience, representation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Biology > Neuroscience
Depositing User: Marc Burock
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2011 05:21
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2011 05:21
Item ID: 8734

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item