1st Edition

The Tools of Neuroscience Experiment Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives

Edited By John Bickle, Carl F. Craver, Ann-Sophie Barwich Copyright 2022
    362 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    362 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume establishes the conceptual foundation for sustained investigation into tool development in neuroscience. Neuroscience relies on diverse and sophisticated experimental tools, and its ultimate explanatory target—our brains and hence the organ driving our behaviors—catapults the investigation of these research tools into a philosophical spotlight.

    The chapters in this volume integrate the currently scattered work on tool development in neuroscience into the broader philosophy of science community. They also present an accessible compendium for neuroscientists interested in the broader theoretical dimensions of their experimental practices. The chapters are divided into five thematic sections. Section 1 discusses the development of revolutionary research tools across neuroscience’s history and argues to various conclusions concerning the relationship between new research tools and theory progress in neuroscience. Section 2 shows how a focus on research tools and their development in neuroscience transforms some traditional epistemological issues and questions about knowledge production in philosophy of science. Section 3 speaks to the most general questions about the way we characterize the nature of the portion of the world that this science addresses. Section 4 discusses hybrid research tools that integrate laboratory and computational methods in exciting new ways. Finally, Section 5 extends research on tool development to the related science of genetics.

    The Tools of Neuroscience Experiment will be of interest to philosophers and philosophically minded scientists working at the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience.


    Stuart Firestein

    Editors’ Introduction

    John Bickle, Carl F. Craver and Ann-Sophie Barwich

    Section I: Research Tools in Relation to Theories

    1. Tinkering in the Lab

    John Bickle

    2. Tools, experiments and theories: An examination of the role of experiment tools

    Gregory Johnson

    3. Science in practice in neuroscience: The Cincinnati water maze in the making

    Nina A. Atanasova, Michael T. Williams and Charles V. Voorhees

    4. Where molecular science meets perfumery: A behind-the-scenes look at SCAPE microscopy and its theoretical impact on current olfaction

    Ann-Sophie Barwich and Lu Xu

    5. A different role for tinkering: Brain fog, COVID-19, and the accidental nature of Neurobiological Theory Development

    Valerie Gray Hardcastle and C. Matthew Stewart

    Section II: Research Tools and Epistemology

    6. Dissemination and adaptiveness as key variables in tools that fuel scientific revolutions

    Alcino J. Silva

    7. Towards an epistemology of intervention: Optogenetics and maker’s knowledge

    Carl F. Craver

    8. Triangulating tools in the messiness of cognitive neuroscience

    Antonella Tramacere

    9. Prediction, explanation and the "toolbox" problem

    Marco J. Nathan

    Section III: Research Tools, Integration, Circuits and Ontology

    10. How do tools obstruct (and facilitate) integration in neuroscience?

    David J. Colaço

    11. Understanding brain circuits: do new experimental tools need to address new concepts?

    David Parker

    12. Cognitive ontologies, task ontologies and explanation in cognitive neuroscience

    Daniel Burnston

    Section IV: Tools and Integrative Pluralism

    13. "It takes two to make a thing go right": The coevolution of technological and mathematical tools in neuroscience

    Luis Favela

    14. Hybrid brains: Interfacing living neurons and circuits with computational models

    Astrid Prinz

    Section V: Tool Use and Development Beyond Neuroscience

    15. Beyond actual difference making: Causal selections in genetics

    Janella Baxter


    John Bickle is Professor of Philosophy and Shackouls Honors College Faculty at Mississippi State University and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He is author of four academic books and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Neuroscience (2009).

    Carl F. Craver is a Professor in the Philosophy Department and the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis. He specializes in the Philosophy of Science and has continuing research activity in the neuropsychology of memory. He is the author of Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience and (with Lindley Darden) In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries across the Life Sciences. 

    Ann-Sophie Barwich is Assistant Professor at Indiana University Bloomington (Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine; Cognitive Science). She specializes in olfaction as a model for theories of mind and brain. Barwich is the author of Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (2020).

    "This book is a timely contribution to debates surrounding the philosophy of neuroscience in practice. Some bold hypotheses are ventured and defanged; new analyses of concepts are offered that will help us analyse and understand neuroscientific experimentation and explanation; and the analysis of neuroscience—its tools, theories, and concepts—is advanced on multiple fronts."

    David L. Barack, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science