The explanatory force of dynamical and mathematical models in neuroscience

a mechanistic perspective

David Michael Kaplan, Carl F. Craver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

145 Citations (Scopus)


We argue that dynamical and mathematical models in systems and cognitive neuroscience explain (rather than redescribe) a phenomenon only if there is a plausible mapping between elements in the model and elements in the mechanism for the phenomenon. We demonstrate how this model-to-mechanism-mapping constraint, when satisfied, endows a model with explanatory force with respect to the phenomenon to be explained. Several paradigmatic models including the Haken-Kelso-Bunz model of bimanual coordination and the difference-of-Gaussians model of visual receptive fields are explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-627
Number of pages27
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

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