Neural plasticity has been invoked as a powerful argument against nativism.However, there is a line of argument, which is well exemplified by Pinker (2002)and more recently by Laurence and Margolis (2015a) with respect to concept na-tivism, according to which even extreme cases of plasticity show important innateconstraints, so that one should rather speak of “constrained plasticity”. Accordingto this view, cortical areas are not really equipotential, they perform instead differ-ent kinds of computation, follow essentially different learning rules, or have a fixedinternal structure acting as a filter for specific categories of inputs. We intend to an-alyze this argument, in the light of a review of current neuroscientific literature onplasticity. Our conclusion is that Laurence and Margolis are right in their appeal toinnate constraints on connectivity – a thesis that is nowadays welcome to both na-tivists (Mahon and Caramazza, 2011) and non-nativists (Pulverm¨uller et al, 2014)– but there is little support for their claim of further innate differentiation betweenand within cortical areas. As we will show, there is instead strong evidence that thecortex is characterized by the indefinite repetition of substantially identical compu-tational units, giving rise in any of its portions to Hebbian, input-dependent plas-ticity. Although this is entirely compatible with the existence of innate constraintson the brain’s connectivity, the cerebral cortex architecture based on a multiplicityof maps correlating with one another has important computational consequences,a point that has been underestimated by traditional connectionist approaches.

Neural plasticity and concepts ontogeny

MAZZONE, MARCO
2016

Abstract

Neural plasticity has been invoked as a powerful argument against nativism.However, there is a line of argument, which is well exemplified by Pinker (2002)and more recently by Laurence and Margolis (2015a) with respect to concept na-tivism, according to which even extreme cases of plasticity show important innateconstraints, so that one should rather speak of “constrained plasticity”. Accordingto this view, cortical areas are not really equipotential, they perform instead differ-ent kinds of computation, follow essentially different learning rules, or have a fixedinternal structure acting as a filter for specific categories of inputs. We intend to an-alyze this argument, in the light of a review of current neuroscientific literature onplasticity. Our conclusion is that Laurence and Margolis are right in their appeal toinnate constraints on connectivity – a thesis that is nowadays welcome to both na-tivists (Mahon and Caramazza, 2011) and non-nativists (Pulverm¨uller et al, 2014)– but there is little support for their claim of further innate differentiation betweenand within cortical areas. As we will show, there is instead strong evidence that thecortex is characterized by the indefinite repetition of substantially identical compu-tational units, giving rise in any of its portions to Hebbian, input-dependent plas-ticity. Although this is entirely compatible with the existence of innate constraintson the brain’s connectivity, the cerebral cortex architecture based on a multiplicityof maps correlating with one another has important computational consequences,a point that has been underestimated by traditional connectionist approaches.
neural plasticity; concept ontogeny; cortical plasticity
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/38916
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