The modern vat-brain debate is an epistemological one, and it focuses on the point of view a putatively deceived subject. Semantic externalists argue that we cannot coherently wonder whether we are brains in vats. This paper examines a new experimental paradigm for cognitive neuroscience â�� the neurally-controlled animat (NCA) paradigm â�� that seems to have a great deal in common with the vat-brain scenario. Neural cells are provided with a simulated body within an artificial world in order to study the brain both in vitro and in vivo. Given the similarity between the NCA scenario and the vat-brain scenario semantic externalism seems to undermine the utility of the NCA methodology. Three initial responses to the externalist challenge are offered. A fourth response clarifies the distinctive theoretical background to the NCA in â��artificial lifeâ�� and, in doing so, we uncover an anti-representationalist conception of the NCA. This distances the NCA paradigm from externalist objections and casts cognitive neuroscience, and the vat-brain debate, in a new light.