The Learning Mechanism in the Human Brain

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Science
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Human Anatomy

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The Learning Mechanism in the Human Brain

LearningDiscussion 2David BakerPSY2012/14493610 Oct. 2010

Memory: The Learning Mechanism in the Human Brain

My brain is my second-favorite organ. —Woody Allen, in Sleeper (1973).The human brain is perhaps the most amazing creation in the cosmos. It is what makes you—you, and me—me; it is what gives us our different personalities, our perceptions of ourselves and of the physical universe. It is the means by which knowledge is accrued and passed on through the generations. Carl Sagan used to say we are star-stuff—all the atoms that we are made off at one time were in stars—we are a manifestation of the universe reaching out to know itself. How does that occur? What is the mechanism in the human brain which allows us to learn, store memories and retrieve them in the future? Learning is defined as “a relatively permanent change in behavior brought about by experience,” (Feldman, 2009, p.169) and memory “the process by which we encode, store and retrieve information (Feldman, 2009, p.205). Without memory, learning would be impossible; without the ability to learn memory would not be necessary. Learning and memory are two sides of the same coin: one could not exist without the other. But what is it that goes on in the human brain that affords us the ability to learn and remember? People have been asking this question for millennia and although science does not have the complete answer it is closer to it than ever before.The neo-cortex is thought to be the place in the brain where thinking takes place as increased blood flows occurs there when mental tasks are performed (http://www.benbest.com/science/anatmind/anatmd5.html). It is theorized that both learning and memory result when synaptic changes (synaptic plasticity) occurs and effects transmissions between neurons. The more the producing effect occurs, the more engrained the memory becomes. This means repeated studying will produce better memory [recall] for exams as well as the more times a new procedure is repeated by [or performed] for an individual there is increased likelihood they shall learn and retain it . Different people have different learning styles and the different types of memories are associated with different parts of the brain. Declarative memory involves the hippocampus and cerebrum while procedural memory is associated with the cerebellum. The mechanisms for the differing types of memory may be variant as well but it is believed that alterations in the brain are required for memory to occur (http://www.pnas.org/content/97/23/12403.full).

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