“Shallow Draughts Intoxicate the Brain”: Lessons from Cognitive Science for Cognitive Neuropsychology


should be sent to Karalyn Patterson, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK. E-mail: karalyn.patterson@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk


This article presents a sobering view of the discipline of cognitive neuropsychology as practiced over the last three or four decades. Our judgment is that, although the study of abnormal cognition resulting from brain injury or disease in previously normal adults has produced a catalogue of fascinating and highly selective deficits, it has yielded relatively little advance in understanding how the brain accomplishes its cognitive business. We question the wisdom of the following three “choices” in mainstream cognitive neuropsychology: (a) single-case methodology, (b) dissociation between functions as the most important source of evidence, and (c) a central goal of diagramming the functional architecture of cognition rather than specifying how its components work. These choices may all stem from an excessive commitment to strict and fine-grained modularity. Although different brain regions are undoubtedly specialized for different functions, we argue that parallel and interactive processing is a better assumption about cognitive processing. The essential goal of specifying representations and processes can, we claim, be significantly assisted by computational modeling which, by its very nature, requires such specification.