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 various ways to discover biological mechanisms. In this article I outline and discuss a “stimulation-connection” bionics-supported methodology for the study of the brain, and compare it with other epistemic uses of bionic systems described in the literature. This methododology 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 systems. I also bring the previous analysis to bear on some claims on the epistemic value of bionic technologies made in the recent philosophical literature. I believe that the methodological reflections 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.