The epistemic value of brain-machine systems for the study of the brain

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Datteri, Edoardo
preprint description
Bionic systems, connecting biological tissues with computer or robotic devices through brain-machine interfaces, can be used in different ways to discover biological mechanisms. Here I will outline the methodology followed in a wide class bionics-supported experiments for the study of the brain, which will be called the “stimulation-connection” methodology. By comparing it with other simulation-based, bionics-supported methodologies described in the literature, I will argue that the stimulation-connection methodology may assist one in discovering brain mechanisms. I will also argue that the stimulation-connection strategy differs from the “synthetic”, simulative method often followed in theoretically-driven Artificial Intelligence and cognitive (neuro)science, even though it involves machine models of biological components. In the second part of the article, I will bring the analysis of the stimulation-connection methodology to bear on some claims on the epistemic value of bionic technologies made in the recent philosophical literature. I believe that the methodological analysis proposed here may contribute to the piecewise understanding of the many ways bionic technologies can be deployed not only to restore lost sensory-motor functions, but also to discover brain mechanisms.