Macquarie University
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Plasticity, learning and cognition: an integrative approach to sensory substitution devices and embodied, enculturated skills

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:05 authored by Mirko Farina
In this doctoral dissertation I develop a new framework for the study and integration of plasticity, learning and cognition. I take sensory substitution devices and embodied skills as my paradigmatic case studies, investigate the capacity of our brain to functionally and anatomically change in response to environmental stimulation, and look at how engaging in context-specific pattern of practice changes subjects' enduring dispositions and influences their performances, leading to increasingly proceduralized skills and expertise. In essence, I study how culture and plasticity shape human cognition. This thesis consists of two theoretically distinct yet interrelated parts. Part 1 (chapters 1, 2, 3) entitled 'Sensory substitution devices, skilful perception and synaesthesia', focuses on issues surrounding debates in philosophy of perception, philosophy of cognitive science and neuroscience and explores the relations between sensory substitution devices, embodiment, human sensory modalities and synaesthesia. Part2 (chapters 4, 5) entitled 'Brain plasticity and enculturated skills in the evolution and development of human cognition', focuses on issues surrounding debates in evolutionary biology, developmental neuroscience and philosophy of cognitive science and investigates the relations between plasticity, embodied patterned practices and human cognition. It is hoped that the new theoretical framework developed in this thesis for the integration of these different concepts and phenomena will facilitate collaborations between philosophers and scientists, thus affording new insights for researchers working at the intersection of philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of biology and philosophy of neuroscience.


Table of Contents

Part 1. Sensory substitution devices, skilful perception and synaesthesia. Introduction : inspirations, themes and methods -- Chapter 1. Substituting the senses -- Chapter 2. Neither touch nor vision : sensory substitution as artificial synaesthesia? -- Chapter 3. Patrolling the boundaries of synaesthesia : a critical appraisal of transient and artificially-acquired forms of synaesthetic experiences -- Part 2. Brain plasticity and enculturated skills in the evolution and development of human cognition. Chapter 4. Three approaches to human cognitive development : neo-nativism, neuroconstructivism and dynamic-enskillment -- Chapter 5. Taxonomising phenotypic plasticity : the crucial role of cultural plasticity in the evolution and development of human cognition -- Conclusion.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Sutton

Additional Supervisor 1

Richard Menary

Additional Supervisor 2

David Kaplan


Copyright Mirko Farina 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xv, 372 pages)

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