The different parts of the neocortex, whether they are responsible for vision, hearing, touch, or language, all work on the same principles. The key to understanding the neocortex is understanding these common principles
— Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence

Brain Functions: mental operations including comprehension, "attention," “memory,”  “learning,” sensing how we feel and why, reading “emotions” in other people, and interacting smoothly. (Goleman3, 3) Everything that we do is carried out by the brain, from the most simple reflex acts, like hitting a tennis ball, running, or riding a bicycle, to the most creative aspects. (Rose, Episode 1 Eric Kandel) We can make a distinction between (the brain functions of) “sensation” and “perception.” Sensation is the registration of physical “stimuli” from the “environment” by the sensory organs, whereas perception is the interpretation of sensations by the brain. (Kolb, 269) Researchers can now directly record the activity of a single neuron or group of neurons and relate that activity to aspects of a specific mental state, such as the “perception” of the color red or of a curved line. (Bloom-Antonio Damasio, 64)  Editor’s note - includes major neural pathways of cognitive or physiological functions.


Distribution: (brain theory) that rather than relying solely on unique specialization, the human brain calls on populations of multitasking neurons, distributed across multiple locations, to achieve every one of its goals. Large populations of cells located in many different regions of the brain contribute to the generation of a final behavioral product. (Nicolelis, 6) Stored across multiple brain locations. Very simple “memories” may be localized in a specific area, whereas more complex memories seem to be distributed throughout the brain. Researchers have used brain imaging technology to confirm that may kinds of memories are distributed in the human brain. (Hockenbury, 246) Editor’s note - advocates of the theory of distribution are called ‘distributionists.’ Adjective - ‘distributed.’

Emergence: in the process of coming out. Occurring unexpectedly; not specifically provided for. (Oxford) When you put together large numbers of pieces and parts, the whole can become something greater than the sum. The concept of ‘emergent properties’ means that something new can be introduced that is not “inherent” in any of the parts. (Eagleman, 217) “Consciousness,” intentionality, purpose, and “meaning” all emerge from the interconnections between billions of neurons that do not contain these elements.” (Burton, 59) Adjective - ‘emergent.’

Executive Function(s): a set of mental processes that controls and manages the cognitive functions. (NCIt) (Human) ability to solve problems and to regulate certain impulses. (Medina, BSP37) A set of cognitive functions that controls complex, goal-directed thought and behavior. Executive function involves multiple domains, such as concept formation, goal management, cognitive flexibility, “inhibition” control, and “working memory.” Impaired executive function is seen in a range of disorders. For example, “schizophrenia” and “ADHD.” (MeSH)

Feedback: the coupling of the “output” of a process to the “input.” Feedback mechanisms are important in regulating many physiological processes; for example “hormones” and “neurotransmitters.” (OxfordMed) A mechanism of communication within a system in that the input signal generates an output response which returns to influence the continued activity or productivity of that system. (MeSH)

Feedback Loop: the visual, auditory, somatosensory, "reticular activating," "limbic" and frontal lobe systems are interconnected in a positive continually recurring feedback loop that takes a stimulus from the outside world, extracts its salient features and then bounces it from region to region, before eventually figuring out what it is and how to respond to it. (Ramachandran, 116) The massive 'feed forward' and feedback projections are in the business of conducting successive iterations that enable us to home in on the closest approximation to the truth. (Ramachandran, 112)

Reverberating Loops: recurrent bioelectrical activity.  Associated with “re-entry.” (Goldberg, 112)

Servo-Control Loop: real-time, feedback-driven mechanism such as that which occurs in the “cerebellum.” (Ramachandran, 18)

Re-Entry: the process of ongoing “reactivation” of critical neural networks in the “neocortex” involved in “memory” formation and recall. If the loops involve ‘distant brain regions’ the process is called ‘reverberation.’ If the loops are local to where the synaptic changes are taking place, the process is called “long-term potentiation” or “LTP.” (Goldberg, 112)

Gustation: the action of tasting, or perceiving a flavor, with the tongue or other organ. (Oxford) Technical name for the sense of taste. (Hockenbury, 99) The faculty of taste, distinguishing substances by means of the “taste buds.” (NCIt) Human reactions to taste include positive ('hedonic') reactions elicited by “sucrose” and other palatable tastes (such as) licking the fingers and licking the lips. Negative ("aversive") reactions elicited by 'quinine' and other non-palatable tastes include spitting, making a face of distaste, and wiping the mouth with the back of the hand. (Kolb, 434) Adjective - ‘gustatory.’

Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC): first reported in the early 1930s, variation in the ability to taste PTC has since become one of the most widely studied of all human genetic traits. (ERIC, EJ79637)

Taste Bud(s): specialized “sensory receptors” for taste that are located on the tongue and inside the mouth and throat. (Hockenbury, 100) An oval body that is located in a tongue and occupies the entire thickness of the “epithelium.” It is composed of sensory cells, supporting cells, and “basal cells.” (NCIt) Specialized receptor cells for chemicals. There are five basic tastes: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and umami. Umami is a flavor that is tasted when foods with "glutamate" (like 'MSG') are eaten. (Chudler, 95)

Localization: belief that distinct brain functions are generated by highly specialized and spatially segregated areas on the nervous system. Belief that the neuron is the fundamental functional unit of the brain. (Nicolelis, 6-7) A fading idea, being replaced by “neuroplasticity,” that the “pathways” in which experience gets into our minds are hardwired. (Doidge, 12) Studies of a cat’s brain by Dr. Bach-y-Rita showed the so-called “visual” part of a cat’s brain was processing at least two other functions – touch and sound. Advocates of the theory of localization are called ‘localizationists.’ (Doidge, 17) 

Mind: the seat of awareness, thought, volition, and feeling; cognitive and emotional phenomena and powers as constituting a controlling system. (Oxford) A series of functions carried out by the brain. (Rose, Episode 1 Eric Kandel) You could think of the mind as consisting of a bunch of different capacities. People have the ability to attend to objects. So, attention is a kind of capacity. Memory is a capacity. Our ability to generate and comprehend language is a capacity, as is our ability to solve problems and reason. (Shapiro, BSP73) The process that regulates the flow of energy and information. Energy is the capacity to do something. Information is something that represents (or symbolizes) something other than itself. The mind creates “patterns” of energy and information flow. It does this through “relationships” and through the body. Not just in the skull, but distributed throughout the whole nervous system in the body. It happens also between people, among people (relational). That’s why we can have the mind both relational and “embodied.” (Siegel, BSP44)

Polysensory: the opposite of localization. Brain’s sensory areas are able to process signals from more than one sense. (Doidge, 17)

Redundancy: a built-in characteristic of brain circuitry. Many sensory, motor, and cognitive functions are served by more than one neural pathway - the same information is processed simultaneously and in parallel in different regions of the brain. (Kandel, 124)

Sensation: of or pertaining to the senses. Transmitted by the senses. (Oxford) Processes that involve and promote the transfer or transmission of sensory information from the periphery to more central organized structures and mechanisms involved in processing information. (NCIt) The detection and basic sensory experience of environmental stimuli, such as sounds, objects, and odors. The process of detecting a physical stimulus. (Hockenbury, 85) Characterization created by the brain by combining information from all “sensory receptors.” For example, wetness, hairiness, fleshiness, rubberiness. (Blakeslee, 9) Also referred to as ‘sensory.’

Senses: the faculties by which the qualities of the external environment are appreciated. (OxfordMed)

Sensorium: the world as experienced through the senses. (Blakeslee, 20)

Sensory Information: environmental stimulus such as touch, pain, or light (Kandel, 79) Tactile (sense of touch) inputs are delivered to the “somatosensory cortex.” Auditory inputs are delivered to the “auditory cortex.” Visual inputs are delivered to the “visual cortex.” (Hawkins, 114) Inputs are just patterns that arrive in a sequence. (Hawkins, 127) In the attainment of understanding, incoming sensory information is usually not enough to lead to an unambiguous interpretation. In such cases, the cortical networks 'fill-in.' They make their best guess, given the incomplete information. This ‘filling-in’ happens throughout the body. The principle “jumping to conclusions” actually guides much of human behavior. (Koch, 23) Also referred to as 'sensory input,' ‘sensory data,’ and ‘sensory stimuli.'

Intensity: the degree or magnitude of strength, energy, or feeling. (NCIt) The measure of a sensory input—whether a touch is gentle (brush on the skin) or heavy (bumping an elbow), whether a light is bright or dim. The intensity of a stimulus results from the "frequency" with which “signals” are emitted. (Kandel, 77-78)

Temporal Processing: determining how long things (events) go on, how long they last. (Doidge, 73) The duration of a sensation is determined by the length of time over which the signals are generated. (Kandel, 78)

Sensory Reception: translation (of) different kinds of information from the external world into electrical patterns that are sent down our neurons. (Doidge, 18)

Sentience: feels or is capable of feeling; having the power or function of sensation. (Oxford) Brain activity is both necessary and sufficient for biological sentience. Empirical support for this fact derives from many sources. (Koch, 9) Adjective - ‘sentient.’

Specialization: the acquisition of… special skills and… special knowledge that is required for our effective operation in that modern sub-culture in the world into which we just happen to have been born. Specialization is accomplished in each one of us almost entirely through brain remodeling - by “plastic” changes that revise the detailed operational control abilities of our individual brains and that load them with stores of culturally specific information. (Merzenich, 11)

System: a complex circuit that performs some specific function, like seeing or hearing, or detecting and responding to danger. A series of hierarchically arranged circuits linked together by synaptic connections.  (LeDoux, 49) Also referred to as ‘circuit system.’