The Lower Bounds of Cognition: What Do Spinal Cords Reveal?

Colin Allen, James W. Grau and Mary W. Meagher

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Neuroscience

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195304787
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Lower Bounds of Cognition: What Do Spinal Cords Reveal?


This article examines the role of the spinal cords in cognition. It reviews animal science research that challenges the view that behavioral responses to sensory stimuli that do not involve brain mediation are fixed, automatic, and non-cognitive in nature. This research has shown the spinal cord to be a flexible and interesting learning system in its own right. This article discusses the consequences of these findings for philosophical understanding of the relationship between learning, cognition, and even consciousness. The article also explains the relevant concepts of instrumental conditioning and antinociception and conditioned antinociception.

Keywords: spinal cord; cognition; behavioral responses; sensory stimuli; learning system; consciousness; instrumental conditioning; conditioned antinociception

Article.  6686 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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