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The functional neuroanatomy of mental representations

14 December 1989


From the Functional Neuroanatomical perspective, a mental representation is an internal picture that is a sign or symbol for,external experience. The representation is housed within the structure of the human organism. It is constructed and modified through functional exercise: when stimulation from a person's surrounding environment effects the internal structure of the organism. The representation is a dynamic combination of cortical elements and systems ,which functionally integrate in response to environmental stimuli. Basic neural elements of the internal structure are "exercised" in early development. The elements are the foundation for all future mental representations. It is proposed that cortical processes determine mental representations and mental representations effect behavior. Change in behavior requires change in the functional neuroanatomy of mental representations. This change is effected through functional exercise and feedback mechanisms that connect structure with environment. The prototype for change is (1) the biological organization of the basic reflex circuit, (2) the feedback and feedforward mechanisms that connect and organize the circuit, and ,(3) the functional use (or exercise) of the circuit. This study provides background review of mental representations and the functional neuroanatomy of the human nervous system, with an in depth review of Jean Piaget's structural-developmental theory of schemas and representations and Alexandr Luria's structural-developmental theory of higher cortical functions.


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