Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 34, 2008

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Gonzalo Munevar
Pages 25-31

A Distributive Explanation of “Grandmother” Cells

The existence of “grandmother” cells clashes with the model of the brain as a distributive system and is implausible because such neurons would have powers of representation across visuals angles and contexts. Nevertheless, Kreiman, Koch and others have offered experimental evidence that such neurons do exist. I agree that neurons may indeed fire when the subject looks at a variety of pictures, drawings, etc. of one particular person. I argue, however, that such a “grandmother” cell is nothing but the single-neuron output stage of a neural network trained to recognize that person. The so-called “grandmother cell” does not have any extraordinary binding properties: They are properties of the neural network instead. I will thus offer a distributive explanation of grandmother cells.