In Part I of this book, we have developed a toolkit of basic neural mechanisms, going from the activation dynamics of individual neurons, to networks of neurons, and the learning mechanisms that configure them in both self-organizing and error-driven ways. At this start of Part II, we begin the transition to exploring a wide range of cognitive phenomena. As an important foundational step along this path, this chapter attempts to provide a big picture view of the overall functional organization of the brain, in a relatively non-controversial way that is roughly meant to correspond to what is generally agreed upon in the literature. This should help you understand at a broad level how different brain areas work together to perform different cognitive functions, and situate the more specific models in the subsequent chapters into a larger overall framework.
We proceed in the same sequence as the subsequent chapters, which roughly follows the evolutionary trajectory of the brain itself, starting with basic perceptual and motor systems, and then proceeding to explore different forms of learning and memory (including the role of the hippocampus in episodic memory). Building upon these core capacities, we then examine language and executive function, which build upon and extend the functionality of these basic cognitive systems.
As usual, we begin with a basic foundation in biology: the gross anatomy of the brain.