- This event has passed.
MA Thesis Defense: Caitlin Mace
June 15 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Caitlin Mace (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Casting light on the search for engrams: on the reductionism-mechanism debate’
15 Jun 2021 • 12:00pm–2:00pm • online
Abstract: Philosophers of neuroscience reflect on questions foundational to neuroscience and neuroscientific practice. Ruthless reductionists characterize neuroscientific research as providing evidence for direct causal relations between molecular processes and cognitive phenomena, whereas new mechanists characterize neuroscientific research as providing schemata for multilevel explanations of cognitive phenomena. In this thesis, I adjudicate the debate between these competing characterizations. To do so, I analyze a case study of the search for engrams in optogenetics research. Optogenetics is a tool that neuroscientists use to elicit learned behavior by labeling and re-activating neurons that were active during learning. The role of the engram construct—conceived as the neurophysiological entity resulting from learning-induced changes and responsible for the retrieval of a memory—is to guide optogeneticists to the neurophysiological structures that function as engrams. I argue that this research program is not ruthlessly reductive, nor does a mechanistic explanation obtain.
Oral defenses are open to the public. For a draft copy of the thesis in advance, please contact Caitlin <email@example.com> directly.