Are Systems Neuroscience Explanations Mechanistic?

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Zednik, Carlos
conference paper description
Whereas most branches of neuroscience are thought to provide mechanistic explanations, systems neuroscience is not. Two reasons are traditionally cited in support of this conclusion. First, systems neuroscientists rarely, if ever, rely on the dual strategies of decomposition and localization. Second, they typically emphasize organizational properties over the properties of individual components. In this paper, I argue that neither reason is conclusive: researchers might rely on alternative strategies for mechanism discovery, and focusing on organization is often appropriate and consistent with the norms of mechanistic explanation. Thus, many explanations in systems neuroscience can also be viewed as mechanistic explanations.