PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Symposium: Intervention and Progress: Optogenetics and Control over Neural Systems

Friday, 4 November 2016
13:30 - 15:30

Augusta G (7th Floor)

Chair: Denis Larrivee, Loyola University Chicago

Optogenetics, a new experimental tool for controlling neurons with light, has rapidly spread throughout the neurosciences. Conceived by Francis Crick and developed by Karl Deisseroth, this method was lauded by Nature in 2010 as the “technique of the year,” praise that appears mild in retrospect. Michael Häusser claims optogenetics has “spurr[ed] a revolution in neuroscience research” (Häusser 2014: 1012), giving scientists unprecedented control over targeted neurons and cellular processes in behaving animals. We focus on optogenetics to explore novel aspects of scientific change. We are interested specifically in progress in methodology rather than in theory, and progress in intervention rather than detection. Our central questions concern scientific change and progress: Do we have an adequate model of the epistemology of progress in intervention? What are the basic aims of a theory of progress in intervention? How do changes in intervention technique interact with methods for detecting phenomena in a domain? And how do such changes interact with the concepts scientists use to frame the ontology of a domain? Optogenetics provides an intrinsically interesting case-study for reflecting on how increasing control over biological systems transforms how we think about them.

Tool Development: How Experiment-Driven Sciences Progress
John Bickle, Mississippi State University/University of Mississippi Medical Center,
Optogenetics and Maker's Knowledge: Foundations for a Theory of Translational Progress
Carl Craver
Memory and Optogenetic Intervention: Separating the Engram from the Ecphory
Sarah Robins, University of Kansas,
Understanding Scientific ‘Progress and Its Problems’ Via the Case Study of Optogenetics
Jacqueline Sullivan, University of Western Ontario,


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