How Brain Waves Surf Sound Waves to Process Speech

Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog.

Decades ago, the noted computational neuroscientist David Marr observed that “trying to understand perception by understanding neurons is like trying to understand a bird’s flight by understanding only feathers.”Pixabay

When he talks about where his fields of neuroscience and neuropsychology have taken a wrong turn, David Poeppel of New York University doesn’t mince words. “There’s an orgy of data but very little understanding,” he said to a packed room at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in February. He decried the “epistemological sterility” of experiments that do piecework measurements of the brain’s wiring in the laboratory but are divorced from any guiding theories about behaviors and psychological phenomena in the natural world. It’s delusional, he said, to think that simply adding up those pieces will eventually yield a meaningful picture of complex thought.

He pointed to the example of , the,” he said. “We’re missing something.”

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