19 February 2021
15-17 Greenwhich Mean Time
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Tracers in neuroscience: Causation, constraints, and connectivity

Lauren Ross (University of California, Irvine)
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Abstract. This paper examines tracer techniques in neuroscience, which are used to identify neural connections in the brain and nervous system. These connections capture a type of “structural connectivity” that is expected to inform our understanding of the functional nature of these tissues (Sporns 2007). This is due to the fact that neural connectivity constrains the flow of signal propagation, which is a type of causal process in neurons. This work explores how tracers are used to identify causal information, what standards they are expected to meet, the forms of causal information they provide, and how an analysis of these techniques contributes to the philosophical literature, in particular, the literature on mark transmission and mechanistic accounts of causation.

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