The computer analogy of the mind has been as widely adopted in contemporary cognitive neuroscience as was the analogy of the brain as a collection of organs in phrenology. Just as the phrenologist would insist that each organ must have its particular function, so contemporary cognitive neuroscience is committed to the notion that each brain region must have its fundamental computation. In After Phrenology, Michael Anderson argues that to achieve a fully post-phrenological science of the brain, we need to reassess this commitment and devise an alternate, neuroscientifically grounded taxonomy of mental function.
Anderson contends that the cognitive roles played by each region of the brain are highly various, reflecting different neural partnerships established under different circumstances. He proposes quantifying the functional properties of neural assemblies in terms of their dispositional tendencies rather than their computational or information-processing operations. Exploring larger-scale issues, and drawing on evidence from embodied cognition, Anderson develops a picture of thinking rooted in the exploitation and extension of our early-evolving capacity for iterated interaction with the world. He argues that the multidimensional approach to the brain he describes offers a much better fit for these findings, and a more promising road toward a unified science of minded organisms.
The idea that a specific brain circuit constitutes the emotional brain (and its corollary, that cognition resides elsewhere) shaped thinking about emotion and the brain for many years. Recent behavioral, neuropsychological, neuroanatomy, and neuroimaging research, however, suggests that emotion interacts with cognition in the brain. In this book, Luiz Pessoa moves beyond the debate over functional specialization, describing the many ways that emotion and cognition interact and are integrated in the brain.
The amygdala is often viewed as the quintessential emotional region of the brain, but Pessoa reviews findings revealing that many of its functions contribute to attention and decision making, critical components of cognitive functions. He counters the idea of a subcortical pathway to the amygdala for affective visual stimuli with an alternate framework, the multiple waves model. Citing research on reward and motivation, Pessoa also proposes the dual competition model, which explains emotional and motivational processing in terms of their influence on competition processes at both perceptual and executive function levels. He considers the broader issue of structure-function mappings, and examines anatomical features of several regions often associated with emotional processing, highlighting their connectivity properties. As new theoretical frameworks of distributed processing evolve, Pessoa concludes, a truly dynamic network view of the brain will emerge, in which "emotion" and "cognition" may be used as labels in the context of certain behaviors, but will not map cleanly into compartmentalized pieces of the brain.