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Human pheromones from the bottom-up and top-down

Posted on August 2, 2012 by James Kohl.

A comment from antagonist Glen Sizemore, who typically represents biologically illiterate behaviorists, conveyed his thoughts that “bottom-up” and “top-down” are pretty much worthless terms in the context of “…all of cognitive “science” and the fields it has corrupted.”

He also inferred that the connection from “top-down” effects of sensory stimuli are relevant only to human will, and that Rene Descartes was wrong when he stated “I think therefore I am” (standard translation). His brief diatribe is linked here where many of his other misrepresentations of what is currently known about neuroscience can be found.

Here is my response to the human ethology group:

In biology, “bottom-up” is a term used to mean that the process is genetically predisposed and organized — as is required in mammals to link sensory input directly to gene activation in cells of hormone-secreting brain tissue that link the sensory input directly to effects on hormone secretion and thus to behavioral affects via that gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway.

In that context, “top-down” is a term used to mean that a genetically predisposed organized process is activated by the sensory input that is directly linked to its behavioral affect via the same gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway. The term commonly used to describe what happens as a result of bottom-up organization and top-down activation is “reciprocity” which links organization and activation of the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway to behavior via everything currently known about adaptive evolution and ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction, which is what Glen Sizemore denies when he says “The terms “bottom-up” and “top-down” are pretty much worthless….”

Perhaps he means they are worthless to those who do not understand the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization required to get from cell biology in microbes to free will in man. Descartes is still dead but I think I am… alive, and therefore that I am able to draw from my knowledge of neuroscience to clearly state that, as I did in a recently published work ( in a section with the title: A bottom-up/top-down reward mechanism):

Further evidence for consideration of the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ-system pathway that links odors directly to hormones and behavior comes from studies of affective neuroscience. An accumulation of evidence now indicates that genetically predisposed, instinctual, unconditioned, emotional behaviors and feelings emanate from homologous brain functions in all mammals (Panksepp, 2011). This evidence emphasizes the need to demonstrate the reciprocity of the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ-system pathway in models of human behavior.

Glen Sizemore seems largely unfamiliar with affective neuroscience or how the findings from socioaffective neuroscience and socio-cognitive niche construction extend to cognitive neuroscience, which may explain his opinions. It is important for others to understand that such opinions, how ever critical, are not supported by anything known about neuroscience or anything understood about socioaffective neuroscience and cognition. What’s known does not depend on visual input or attention to it — except as a classically conditioned response that I have detailed.

Perhaps Glen Sizemore, like other behaviorists, has visually observed too many experiments on animals in boxes that are used to train them to exhibit the behaviors he can see — as with the early ethologists who could see only the behavior of birds and somehow know that olfaction was not involved. But that approach is now so far from what can be done by biologists who study behavior, that it is rarely a consideration at a time when others are becoming ever more familiar with the role of olfaction and odor receptors in the adaptive evolution of our socio-cognitive niche and human behavior.

See also: The underestimated role of olfaction in avian reproduction? and Kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in wild birds: the first evidence for individual kin-related odour recognition while waiting for the response to this post that probably won’t come from Glen Sizemore — except in the form of another attack on neuroscience (cognitive, social, socioaffective et al).

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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