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The Explanatory Force of Dynamical and Mathematical Models in Neuroscience: A Mechanistic Perspective*

David Michael Kaplan and Carl F. Craver
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 4 (October 2011), pp. 601-627
DOI: 10.1086/661755
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661755
Page Count: 27
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The Explanatory Force of Dynamical and Mathematical Models in Neuroscience: A Mechanistic Perspective*
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Abstract

We argue that dynamical and mathematical models in systems and cognitive neuroscience explain (rather than redescribe) a phenomenon only if there is a plausible mapping between elements in the model and elements in the mechanism for the phenomenon. We demonstrate how this model-to-mechanism-mapping constraint, when satisfied, endows a model with explanatory force with respect to the phenomenon to be explained. Several paradigmatic models including the Haken-Kelso-Bunz model of bimanual coordination and the difference-of-Gaussians model of visual receptive fields are explored.

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