Does modern neuroscience help us understand behavior?

Does modern neuroscience help us understand behavior?

Lately, some neuroscientists have been struggling with an identity crisis: what do we believe, and what do we want to achieve? Is it enough to study the brain’s machinery, or are we missing its larger design?

Scholars have pondered the mind since Aristotle, and scientists have studied the nervous system since the mid-1800s, but neuroscience as we recognize it today did not coalesce as a distinct study until the early 1960s. In the first ever Annual Review of Neuroscience, the editors recalled that in the years immediately after World War II, scientists felt a “growing appreciation that few things are more important than understanding how the nervous system controls behavior.” This “growing appreciation” brought together researchers scattered across many well-established fields – anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, medicine, behavior – and united them in the newly coined discipline of neuroscience.

It was clear to those researchers that studying the nervous system needed knowledge and techniques from many other disciplines. The Neuroscience Research Program at MIT, established in 1962, brought together scientists from multiple universities in an attempt to bridge neuroscience with biology, immunology, genetics, molecular biology, chemistry, and physics. The first ever ...

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