Prior Knowledge and Neurobiology ?

James Blackburn blackbur at
Tue Mar 7 09:59:48 EST 1995

Edward Simon Dunstone (ted at wrote:
: Does anyone know of references that describe the role that 
: prior knowledge plays in learning, from a biological rather than 
: cognitive or computer science perspective (ie at the neuronal or dendritic
: level). Would I be correct in assuming that so far there has been 
: little work in this area ?

For an excellent discussion of the possible neurobiological basis for _a 
priori_ knowledge see the first chapter of O'Keefe and Nadel's book _The 
Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map".  The chapter is called "Remembrance of 
places past: A history of theories of space".  It won't get you into the 
nuts and bolts of genetic transmission of knowledge but will provide a 
framework for discussion by two very clever behavioural neruobiologists.  

Visual neuroscience is another area where the prior knowledge vs. 
experience debate is very much alive - how much of the visual system is 
genetically programmed, how much is driven by experience.

Happy hunting!

Jim Blackburn
McMaster Psychology

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