Wooden sculpture of the itinerant Buddhist monk Kūya. This portrait by the 13th century sculptor Kōshō shows the monk reciting the nembutsu, or praise of the Buddha, which in Japan takes the form of six characters. Kuya taught that focused recitation of the nembutsu would lead to rebirth in the Pure Land, a state of spiritual illumination. The six small Buddhas issuing from his mouth represent the six syllables of the spoken prayer. This portrayal shows remarkable complexity of representation, with pieces of wood carved in the shape of figurines, symbolizing discrete components of speech, which together represent language, its underlying concept, and in this case a means to spiritual enlightenment. (Reproduced, with permission from Rokuharamitsuji-temple, Kyoto, Japan.)
Motor and sensory functions take up less than one-half of the cerebral cortex in humans. The rest of the cortex is occupied by the association areas, which coordinate events arising in the motor and sensory centers. Three association areas—the prefrontal, parietal-temporal-occipital, and limbic—are involved in cognitive behavior: speaking, thinking, feeling, perceiving, planning, learning, memory, and skilled movements.
Most of the early evidence relating cognitive functions to the association areas came from clinical studies of brain-damaged patients. Thus, the study of language in patients with aphasia yielded important information about how human mental processes are distributed in the two hemispheres of the brain and how they develop.
Genetic manipulation in experimental animals can now be used to evaluate the relative contribution of genes and learning to specific types of behavior. Even the highest cognitive abilities have a genetic component. Composing music is an excellent example. Music conforms to complex, unusually abstract rules that must be learned, yet clearly it has genetic components intertwined with its learned aspects. The great composer Johann Sebastian Bach had many children, five of whom were distinguished musicians and composers. His only grandson also was a composer and harpsichordist to the court of Prussia. In 1730, Bach proudly wrote that he was able to "put on a vocal and instrumental concert with my own family."
Much of today's neural science concerns cognitive neural science, a merger of neurophysiology, anatomy, developmental biology, cell and molecular biology, and cognitive psychology—a merger that has given rise to a new science of mind. Until two decades ago the study of higher mental function was approached in two complementary ways: through psychological observation and through invasive experimental physiology. In the first part of the 20th century, to avoid untestable concepts and hypotheses, psychology became rigidly concerned with behaviors defined strictly in terms of observable stimuli and responses. Orthodox behaviorists thought it unproductive to deal with consciousness, feeling, attention, or even motivation.
By concentrating only on observable actions, behaviorists asked: What can an organism do, and how does it do it? Indeed, careful quantitative analysis of stimuli and responses has contributed greatly to our understanding of the acquisition and ...