Brain, behavior, and mind: what do we know and what can we know?

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1998 Mar;22(2):125-42. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(97)00009-2.


I have attempted a comprehensive review of psychological and neuroscientific findings relevant to the problem of mind in relation to the brain and behavior. The following conclusions are suggested: (a) current discussions of the mind often make implicit assumptions derived from the theories of Aristotle and Descartes while ignoring more recent scientific evidence; (b) psychological studies indicate that humans are directly aware of the external world and of their own bodies but of little else. Descartes' assumption that one has direct access to one's own thoughts appears to be an error; (c) there are no clear objective criteria for assessing the existence of subjective awareness in others. This problem is particularly acute in the cases of non-human animals and humans with impaired brain function; (d) the theory that the conventional subdivisions of the mind, such as emotion or cognition, reflect natural subdivisions of brain function is largely false; and (e) the main scientific challenge confronting neuroscience is not explaining the mind but rather achieving an understanding of how neural activity generates behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Consciousness / physiology
  • Humans