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John Bickle, PhD

John BickleProfessor of Philosophy, Mississippi State University
Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Mississippi State University
Fellow, Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies


  • BA - Philosophy, Psychobiology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983
  • PhD - Philosophy (philosophy of science, concentration: neuroscience), University of California, Irvine, 1989

Research interests

  • Philosophy of neuroscience, scientific reductionism, cellular and molecular mechanisms of cognition and consciousness

Current research

My current research focuses on the development of experiment tools in neurobiology and the lessons that a metascientific account of these developments suggest about the nature of science and scientific progress. Unlike the standard “theory-centric” account of science popular among historians and philosophers of science, a focus on the research tools that have led to the most important discoveries in neurobiology over the past seventy years suggests that our best theory depends entirely on the development of new research tools, and new tools depend on solving engineering problems, not applying theory. One finds a regular developmental pattern across a number of tools that have revolutionized neuroscience, from historical cases like the metal microelectrode, the patch clamp, and gene targeting techniques, to more recent tools like optogenetics and chemogenetics. This work follows directly from the “framework’ for science that UCLA neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva and I derive out of landmark publications in the field of ‘molecular and cellular cognition’ in our co-authored (2014) book, Engineering the next Revolution in Neuroscience (New York: Oxford University Press). One interesting open question is whether this metascientific account can help contemporary neurobiologists who are trying to develop new experiment tools.

Recent publications


  • “Memory linking and creativity: The search for underlying molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms” (co-author Alcino J.Silva). Forthcoming in S. Nalbantian and P. Matthews (Eds.), Secrets of Creativity: What Neuroscience, the Arts, and Our Minds Reveal. New York: Oxford University Press, in press, forthcoming August 2019.
  • “Connection experiments in neurobiology” (co-author Aaron Kostko). Synthese 195 (12), (December 2018), 5271-5295, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1838-0
  • “From microscopes to optogenetics: Ian Hacking vindicated.” Philosophy of Science 85/5: 1065-1077, (December 2018)