Cognitive Neuroscience


Cognition refers to the process of coming to know the world and our place within it. Cognitive neuroscience is the field of inquiry devoted to understanding how the brain enables cognition. Work in this field focuses on defining the neural processes that permit us to perceive and attend to events, determine their meaning and relevance, and respond appropriately. A key discovery in this field was that the higher mental functions, such as attention, memory, emotion, decisionā€making and language arise through the activation of dedicated neural circuits localized in discrete areas of the brain. Notably, cognitive neuroscience actively probes subjective states such as emotion, imagery and awareness, which were considered inappropriate for scientific study by behaviourist psychologists of the early and middle twentieth century.

Keywords: cognition; neuroimaging; psychology; brain; mind

Figure 1.

Lateral and medial views of the human brain. The four main lobes, or divisions, of the cortex are indicated (Frontal, Parietal, Occipital, Temporal) as are the primary sensory and motor areas of the cortex. The rest of the cortical mantle is often termed as association cortex, and connects primary sensory, primary motor and other association areas. Notable association areas are indicated (prefrontal cortex, orbital prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, parietal cortex). The Cerebellum aids in the production of smooth movement and certain forms of motor learning. The Brainstem is largely devoted to basic functions, including coordination, balance, movements of the musculature in the head and face, respiration and heart rhythm.


Further Reading

Gazzaniga MS (ed.) (1999) The New Cognitive Neurosciences, 2nd edn. Boston, MA: Bradford Books, MIT Press.

Gazzaniga MS, Ivry RB and Mangun GR (2002) Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Koch C (2004) The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. Englewood, CO: Roberts and Company.

Purves D, Augustine GJ and Fitzpatrick D (2001) Neuroscience. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Sachs O (1998) The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. New York, NY: Touchstone.

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Platt, Michael L(Jan 2006) Cognitive Neuroscience. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003376]