Neural mechanisms of learning

Laszlo laszlo at
Tue Sep 19 19:23:00 EST 1995

During the first few months of learning to drive a car (or learn martial 
arts techniques, what have you) the brain is conscious of sets of actions 
it wishes to teach itself. Through repeating these on a step-by-step 
basis sooner or later trains the neural network itself (the brain, rather 
than the mind) how it should respond to particular actions or intentions.
  As for the actual physiological changes which take place in and amoung 
the neurons, the closest one might come to understanding this [still 
uncertain] area is to study how analogous man-made neural networks are 
  Very loosely (I don't know if this helps in the least) an output or 
ultimate goal is established and steps are taken to achieve the goal. If 
the goal is accomplished (you got the car out of 1st gear without causing 
smoke or horrendous noises) you feel happy and releived, sending chemical 
signals back through the network confirming that those last steps taken 
were [somewhat] correct. After doing this umpteen times the motor neurons 
have learned accurately enough that they, themselves can move your hand 
without the training, leaving your frontal lobes free to think about signing 
up for those martial arts classes <smirk>.
  I won't even touch the neurotrasmitter names issue. I've heard guesses 
that there are 50 to 200 chemicals used - somehow I doubt anyone has a 
solid idea yet how individual neurons *really* work. <shrug> hope this 

Hugh S. Selsick (127hugh at wrote:
: Does anyone know what the latest consensus is on the neural mechanisms of 
: learning, both with regard to memory and to motor skills? What physical and 
: physiological changes occur during the process where an initially foreign 
: reaction becomes almost(?) reflex? For example, when we first learn to drive 
: the control of the clutch was difficult and required a great deal of 
: concentration. But after a few months it is so natural we do it 
: automatically without thinking. 

: Related to this question is the problem of whether or not all reflex 
: reactions are hardwired into our systems or whether theyn can be learned or 
: unlearned. eg Can a karate master override his reflex to cringe in the face 
: of an attack and replace it with a reflex to sidestep and block?

: Any help would be much appreciated.

: Hugh Selsick
: Wits Physiology Department
                       Government out of Internet!!!!

      Laszlo, CNE     laszlo at     San Francisco    DoD#3434
 "Here we are, born to be kings, we're the princes of the universe" -Queen

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