Neuroscience: Higher Brain Functions

Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 431
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5695.431

Contents

Reviews & Viewpoint

Cognitive Memory: Cellular and Network Machineries and Their Top-Down Control

Y. Miyashita

Language and the Origin of Numerical Concepts

R. Gelman and C. R. Gallistel

The Role of the Medial Frontal Cortex in Cognitive Control

K. R. Ridderinkhof, M. Ullsperger, E. A. Crone, S. Nieuwenhuis

Neuroeconomics: The Consilience of Brain and Decision

P. W. Glimcher and A. Rustichini

See related STKE and SAGE KE material, and Editorial.

What are the brain substrates activated during higher cortical functions, such as cognition, and how do they interact with structures involved in guiding our behavior? Until recently, these questions were discussed completely independently in the faculties of neurobiology and psychology, and on a different level in economics and linguistics. However, in the past couple of years we have witnessed an enormous growth in interdisciplinary studies, in which some of the leading experts in their fields have branched out of the traditional confines of their specialities and achieved invaluable new insights into the biological basis of thought processes traditionally considered to belong more to the realm of the humanities. This has led to the rapid expansion of new fields, such as neuroeconomics. In this year's neuroscience special issue, we have tried to give a synopsis of recent developments in this successful example of scientific cross-fertilization.

CREDIT: BURSTEIN COLLECTION/CORBIS

Miyashita's Review on cognitive memory (p. 435) attempts to integrate molecular, cellular, electrophysiological, and functional imaging data dealing with questions of encoding and retrieval of episodic memory. Ridderinkhof et al. (p. 443) review the literature and perform a meta-analysis of the role of the posterior medial frontal cortex in functions of cognitive control, such as monitoring of unfavorable outcomes, response errors, and response conflict. They suggest that the posterior medial frontal cortex is commonly activated when the need for performance adjustment becomes evident to the individual. Glimcher and Rustichini (p. 447) describe the latest developments in neuroeconomics, which tries to combine modern neurobiological techniques with well-established traditional approaches in economics and psychology. In a Viewpoint, Gelman and Gallistel (p. 441) discuss two papers in this issue of Science by Pica et al. (p. 499) and by Gordon (p. 496) on exciting new findings concerning the role of language in the origin of numerical concepts. They discuss these findings in the broader context originally proposed by Benjamin Lee Whorf: how language not only influences but constrains the way we experience the world and even how we think.

In a News story, Miller (p. 432) visits Denmark for the latest International Congress of Neuroethology and reveals how this field uses the remarkable diversity of the animal kingdom to understand the ways in which a brain controls behavior. Possible connections between behavior, personality, and aging in both humans and monkeys are discussed by Corr in a Perspective in the Science of Aging Knowledge Environment (SAGE KE, www.sciencemag.org/sciext/cognition).

In Science's Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment (STKE, www.sciencemag.org/sciext/cognition), Cull-Candy and Leszkiewicz review the discrete roles played by various NMDA receptor subtypes. Pollack discusses a signaling pathway mediated by coactivated dopamine D1 and D2 receptors that is distinct from those activated by D1 or D2 alone. An animation by Contractor and Heinemann depicts AMPA receptor cycling at the synapse.

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