Neural reuse and the nature of evolutionary constraints


In humans, the reuse of neural structure is particularly pronounced at short, task-relevant timescales. Here, an argument is developed for the claim that facts about neural reuse at task-relevant timescales conflict with at least one characterization of neural reuse at an evolutionary timescale. It is then argued that, in order to resolve the conflict, we must conceptualize evolutionary-scale reuse more abstractly than has been generally recognized. The final section of the paper explores the relationship between neural reuse and human nature. It is argued that neural reuse is not well-described as a process that constrains our present cognitive capacities. Instead, it liberates those capacities from the ancestral tethers that might otherwise have constrained them.