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Lecture 16

PSYC 211 Lecture 16: Chapter 12 Learning and Memory

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PSYC 211
Jonathan Britt

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PSYC 211 Chapter 12 Encounters with the environment alters behaviour by modifying the nervous system Learning - the process by which experiences change our nervous system and hence our behaviour Changes = memories Experiences are not stored; experiences change the way we perceive, perform, think, and plan o This is done by physically changing the structure of the nervous system, altering neural circuits that are active in perception, performance, thought, and planning 4 basic forms of learning o Perceptual Learning - the ability to learn to recognize stimuli that has been perceived before Primary function: the ability to identify and categorize objects and situations Unless we learn to recognize something, we cannot learn how we should behave with it Each sensory system is capable of perceptual learning; we can learn to recognize objects by sight, smell, touch; we can recognize words people say, the sound of their voices, the way they walk, etc. Perceptual learning appears to be accomplished primarily by changes in the sensory association cortex (ex: learning to recognize visual stimuli involves changes in the visual association cortex) o Stimulus-response learning - the ability to learn to perform a particular behaviour when a particular stimulus is present Involves the establishment of connections between circuits involved in perception and movement Behaviour could be an automatic response (ex: defensive reflex) or it could be a complicated sequence of movements Two major categories of learning: classical conditioning and instrumental/operant conditioning Classical Conditioning - Pavlov A form of learning in which an unimportant stimulus acquires the properties of an important one - involves an association between two stimuli An initially neutral stimulus - has little effect on behaviour - becomes able to elicit a reflexive, species-typical behaviour Involves: automatic, species-typical behavioural responses Association between 2 stimuli Unconditioned response (UR) - occurs unconditionally, without any special training Ex: a puff of air toward the eye will automatically cause the eye to blink Unconditioned Stimulus (US) - the stimulus that produces the unconditioned response Ex: the puff of air toward the eye When a neutral stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus, (ex: a tone is paired with a puff of air to the eye) it will cause the animal to blink before the puff of air is administered - unconditioned response occurs at the sound of the tone, not at the administration of the air Conditioning PSYC 211 Conditional stimulus (CS) elicits (the tone) the conditional response (CR) (the blink) Changes (synaptic) in the brain upon classical conditioning Assume: US (puff of air) is detected by a single neuron in the somatosensory system CS (tone) detected by a single neuron in the auditory system The response (eye blink) is controlled by a single neuron in the motor system If a tone is presented by itself, the animal exhibits no behavioural reaction because the synapse connecting the tone-sensitive neuron with the neuron in the motor system is weak When an action potential reaches terminal button of synapse T (tone), the EPSP that it produces in the dendrite of the motor neuron is too small to make that neuron fire If a puff of air is presented to the eye (without any pairing of other stimulus) the eye will react by blinking Reaction occurs because there is a strong synapse between the somatosensory neuron and the motor neuron that causes a blink To establish classical conditioning, first present the tone (CS) quickly followed by the puff of air (US) After repeated pairings, the tone will eventually elicit the blink by itself Hebb - proposed a rule that might explain how neurons are changed by experience in a way that would cause changes in behaviour Hebb's rule - cellular basis of learning involves strengthening a synapse that is repeatedly active when the postsynaptic neuron fires If a stimulus repeatedly becomes active around the same time that the postsynaptic neuron fires, changes will happen in the structure or chemistry of the synapse that will strengthen it If the tone is presented first, then weak synapse T becomes active If the puff is presented immediately after, then strong synapse P (puff of air) becomes active and makes the motor neuron fire The act of firing then strengthens any synapse with the motor neuron that has just been active (synapse T) After several pairings of the stimuli and after several increments of strengthening, synapse T becomes strong enough to cause the motor neuron to fire by itself = learning Instrumental/operant/reinforcement conditioning - Skinner Involves: behaviours that have been learned An association between a response and a stimulus Flexible form of learning - permits organism to adjust its behaviour according to the consequences of that behaviour When a behaviour if followed by favourable consequences - reinforcing stimuli - the behaviour tends to occur more frequently When a behaviour is followed by unfavourable consequences - punishing stimuli - the behaviour tends to occur less frequently PSYC 211 Reinforcement causes changes in the nervous system that increases the likelihood that a particular stimulus will elicit a particular response Process of reinforcement learning - Skinner's box When a hungry rat is first placed in an operant chamber - Skinner's box - the rat will likely not press the lever But if rat presses lever and is immediately rewarded with food, the likelihood of its making another response increases Reinforcement causes the sight of the lever to serve as the stimulus that elicits desired behaviour (pressing the lever) Without the presence of the lever, there will be no behaviour - a rat won't just start waving it's paw in the air Sight of the lever is required Process of reinforcement strengthens a connection between neural circuits involved in perception (sight of the lever) and those involved in movement (act of lever pressing) Brain contains reinforcement mechanisms controlling this process o Motor Learning - learning to make a new response A component of stimulus-response learning Cannot occur without sensory guidance from the environment (internal and external) The more novel the behaviour, the more neural circuits in the motor systems of the brain must be modified A particular learning situation can involve varying amounts of all 3 types of learning Ex: if an animal is taught to make a new response whenever presented with a stimulus its never seen before, it must learn to recognize the stimulus (perceptual learning) make a response (motor learning) and a connection must be established between the two new memories (stimulus-response learning) If it is taught to make a response it has already learned whenever presented with a new stimulus, only pe
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